MS and Video Games
New research indicates that a novel, video-game-style intervention may be beneficial to people with MS.
Many people with multiple sclerosis — particularly progressive forms of the disease — experience, or at least fear, the loss of cognitive function as their disease progresses. For that reason, the question of whether puzzles, games, mind exercises, and the like might help is of great interest to this group.
Now a study published on June 25, 2020, in Multiple Sclerosis Journal suggests that a video game that can be played at home may help people with multiple sclerosis (MS) maintain — and even improve — processing speed better than word games.
Processing speed refers to the speed with which a person understands and responds to information. It is one of the cognitive functions most commonly affected by multiple sclerosis.
The study showed that both the video game and word games improved processing speed. But the participants in the video-game arm of the study maintained the gains achieved during the study period for at least eight weeks after they had stopped using the game, while the word-game control subjects did.
This wasn’t your average game of Pong or Super Mario. The video game, called AKL-T03 (you’ve got to think that the marketing team hasn’t had a go at it yet) is software designed to engage sensory and motor functions. The game’s software automatically adjusts to each player’s abilities.
Subjects of the study played the game for 25 minutes a day, five days a week, for six weeks. They were evaluated before the study began, at the conclusion of the game phase after six weeks, and again eight weeks after they had stopped playing AKL-T03.
The evaluation was based on the Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT), which some who have gone through neuropsychological evaluation may have completed in the past. It’s a test where the test taker has to match numbers or letters with symbols, using a code, and it’s scored on speed and accuracy.
At the conclusion of the video-game study, eight weeks after subjects had stopped playing the game, 70 percent of those who were on the video-game side of the study retained an average increase of four points on the SDMT test, while only 37 percent of the word-game players did.
Larger Studies Needed to Validate This One
Because only 44 people with mild to moderate disability were enrolled in this study, more work needs to be done, and an expanded trial is already in the works.
We’ll keep an eye on this one and hope for continued positive results in the future.
Wishing you and your family the best of health.