Santa Cruz Tech Beat


Can video games help stroke survivors rebuild the broken links between brain and body?

By James Urton
UC Santa Cruz Science Communication Program

(Image above, credit: Benedicte Rossi)

September 23, 2015 — Santa Cruz, CA

Recent UC Santa Cruz alumnus Luke Buschmann tested whether motion-sensing games assist stroke survivors in rebuilding links between brain and body.

Maggie Reynolds sighted her target on the laptop screen and inhaled. Her eyes darted between the screen and her upright fist. She struggled, trying to raise her fist a few inches higher. But the desires of her brain couldn’t connect with her muscles. She failed, and the laptop made a percussive clunking sound. She lowered and massaged her numb left arm, fist still clenched.

Reynolds looked over at Luke Buschmann, the lanky UC Santa Cruz graduate student who sat nearby on a sofa. He focused on a mathematics textbook balanced on his knees. Buschmann hadn’t noticed her struggle, or that Reynolds still had good news to share. “That was my highest score,” she boasted.

They sat in her living room in Aptos, California, that January day so Reynolds could try out a motion-sensing video game that Buschmann developed to help people like her. Four years ago, a massive stroke on Christmas Day robbed Reynolds of control over half her body, but not her zeal. As she spoke about her love of the sun, the violin and Arizona, she sat alert in her ruby-red wheelchair. Under her faded auburn hair, her face creased with decades of laughter. But below her neck, her movements were one-sided. “I had a bleed on my right hemisphere, so I lost my left side,” she said. “The bleed just destroyed an immense area of my brain.”

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