Medicine

OrbIT a ‘game-changer’ for Parkinson’s

Daviid Hobbs, right, Parkinson's SA Olivia Nassaris and Dr Lyndsey Collins-Praino (both standing) demonstrate the OrbIT system with Christie Downs residents Tolley and Lyn Paunovic at Flinders at Tonsley. Image courtesy of Flinders University

A novel gaming system powered by Flinders invention ‘OrbIT’ will play a leading role in the fight to improve life for people living with Parkinson’s disease.

Thanks to funding from the estate of the late Olga Mabel Woolger, Parkinson’s SA has announced a three-year $90,000 study to connect Flinders University’s computer game system OrbIT with neuroscience expertise to trial OrbIT as a cognitive training device to improve outcomes and delay dementia onset for people with Parkinson’s disease.

OrbIT lead inventor, Flinders University Rehabilitation Engineer David Hobbs, will partner with University of Adelaide neuroscientist Dr Lyndsey Collins-Praino and Parkinson’s SA in the trial.

The OrbIT gaming system is an accessible, fun, stand-alone computer gaming system that features an easy-to-use controller for people with hand impairment.

While the unique design of the controller facilitates intuitive control without the need for grip and fine motor control , specially designed OrbIT computer games engage the player in targeted, cognitively challenging activity.

This is particularly important for individuals living with Parkinson’s disease, who may often struggle to use traditional gaming controllers, says Parkinson’s SA Chief Executive Officer Ms Olivia Nassaris.

The funding will enable the gaming system to be trialled through Parkinson’s SA’s new Brain x Body Fitness Studio at Unley, a studio designed to encourage neuroplasticity. The trial will include both short-term and long-term follow up with individuals, in order to evaluate any lasting benefits of game play.

Parkinson’s disease affects more than 110,000 Australians, with 38 new cases diagnosed every day.

While many people think of Parkinson’s disease as a motor disease, it can also be associated with a variety of non-motor impairments, including declines in cognitive function and memory.

Within 20 years of diagnosis over 80% of individuals living with Parkinson’s disease go on to develop dementia.

“Parkinson’s South Australia is expanding our research portfolio in partnership with the talented minds from our South Australian universities,” Ms Nassaris says.

“Together with Parkinson’s SA and the generosity of the estate of the late Olga Mabel Woolger, we have a project that potentially can improve the wellbeing of people living with Parkinson’s,” she says.

“We believe the OrbIT gaming system, which was originally developed for children with cerebral palsy and has also been trialled with people undergoing stroke rehabilitation, has huge potential in other health areas because of the way it was designed,” says Mr Hobbs, from the Medical Device Research Institute at the College of Science and Engineering at Flinders at Tonsley.

“We are really excited to partner with Parkinson’s SA and to uncover new applications for this technology to improve the lives of many people with this condition.”

“OrbIT is a novel and accessible serious gaming system, which is changing the lives of people with cerebral palsy and those recovering from stroke, with potential to help others with a hand impairment,” says Mr Hobbs, who started work on the invention several years ago.

“Cognitive decline is one of the most significant predicators of quality of life both for individuals living with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers, and currently there are no effective treatments for it,” says Dr Collins-Praino.

“We hope that the OrbIT system may be able to help individuals maintain, or even improve, their cognitive function by allowing us to target the areas that are most vulnerable in Parkinson’s disease,” she says.

Source: Flinders University

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