Video Games as TBI Therapy


Video game therapy using Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect-supported virtual therapy has helped people with TBI improve their balance and gait according to a study by Ksenia Ustinova, PhD and Jan Perkins, PT, PhD from Central MIchigan University. The video game therapy lasted 5-6 weeks and following participation in the training program, the participants had significant improvements in balance, gait, functional reach, coordination, dynamic stability and precision. Problems with ataxia were not effected by the video game therapy. Like the Wii games, the Kinect software allows the game to be controlled through a players movements. The therapist role in the sessions was through a Personal Instruction Avatar. The program sessions had three components: the first consisting of intersegmental and interlimb coordination and eye-hand coordination; the second part was a “skateboard” game which required the person to move along a street course while seated and the third part occurred while the person stood and “popped balloons” fired at them by an octopus.

The virtual therapy environment is similar to traditional therapy in some ways, but also benefits from involvement in the stimulus-rich environment provided by video games and the built-in reinforcement which comes from video game participation. Through video game therapy, a person can have sessions outside of the clinic environment and reap the benefits of higher frequency and duration treatment which can yield better outcomes.

The study conducted by Drs. Ustinova and Perkins supports the findings of Avi Nativ, PT, PhD, who has been using video game technology in therapy for over twenty years and developed unique applications for neuromotor training which we used at the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute of Ontario (NRIO) and which Dr. Nativ continues to use and refine through NeuroGym in Ottawa, Ontario.


Click here to read the Medpage report of Dr. Ustinova’s presentation at the World Congress of Neurology:


Tag lines: Virtual therapy for TBI, Knesia Ustinova, Jan Perkins, balance therapy, gait therapy, video game therapy, Avi Nativ, NRIO,

About Rolf Gainer Ph.D.

Dr. Rolf Gainer is the founder of the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute at Brookhaven Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma as well as the Neurological Rehabilitation Institute of Ontario, in Toronto, Canada. Dr. Gainer is a psychologist with more than twenty-five years of experience in the treatment and rehabilitation of individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. Dr. Gainer has designed and operated innovative rehabilitation programs in the United States and Canada for individuals who have been regarded as difficult to serve. He is currently involved in conducting two outcome studies related to the long-term issues faced by individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. He has presented papers throughout the United States and Canada in many professional conferences and educational forums.
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