Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Newcastle University Supports Successful Health Spin-Outs; NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Newcastle University Supports Successful Health Spin-Outs; NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY

Article excerpt

NEWCASTLE University utilises the combination of its business and medical expertise to address challenges and find solutions to health problems faced by society.

A leading example, 'Limbs Alive', was co-founded by Newcastle University's Professor Janet Eyre and Mrs Janice Pearse, Senior Occupational Therapist, in partnership with Newcastle University and The Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust to address the need for rehabilitation of arm and hand use after stroke.

The specially-designed computer games improve a patient's dexterity through fun and stimulating activities.

The games are targeted at children and adults who have lost the use of a hand and arm after a stroke or due to cerebral palsy - a condition called hemiplegia.

In the UK alone 150,000 people suffer a stroke every year and this is estimated to increase with our ageing population. Two thirds have problems controlling their arms and require therapy.

Home-based therapy delivers significant cost savings and it has been recommended that 45 minutes of therapy is needed five days a week. However, there are insufficient trained staff and resources within the NHS and health services worldwide to deliver this using the current models of delivery.

Back in 2004, Professor Eyre's research revealed that exercises repeated for 30 minutes each day could help improve upper limb performance and potentially transform people's quality of life. The problem was that the exercises were extraordinarily dull.

So Professor Eyre and colleagues at the University and Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust explored ways to make patients actually look forward to doing them.

Video games proved an ideal medium.

The key was to slow down the gaming action and require gamers to make specific hand and arm movements.

Professor Eyre explained: "The brain can relearn control of the weak arm but this needs frequent therapy over many months and there are not enough therapists to provide this on a one-to-one basis.

"Eighty per cent of patients do not regain full recovery of arm and hand function and this really limits their independence and ability to return to work. With our video game called Circus Challenge, people get engrossed in the competition and action of the circus characters and forget that the purpose of the game is therapy. …

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