Limbs Alive, co-founded by Newcastle University’s Professor Janet Eyre, uses specially designed computer games to make dexterity-improving exercises more fun and stimulating. The games are targeted at children and adults who have lost upper limb function after a stroke or due to cerebral palsy – a condition called hemiplegia.
Back in 2004, Professor Eyre co-authored a research paper entitled ‘Congenital hemiplegia: A potentially treatable disorder?’. There was clear evidence 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 Developmental Neuroscience Group 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. Success required close collaboration between game developers and Newcastle University’s clinical experts.
By 2009 a suite of award-winning games had been developed. To commercialise the idea, Limbs Alive Ltd was founded by Professor Eyre and Mrs Janice Pearse, Senior Occupational Therapist, in partnership with Newcastle University and The Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust.
The company’s first set of games is called ‘Circus Challenge’. Early levels require simple movements whereas later levels require increasingly complex movements and coordination.
In 2011 Limbs Alive Ltd won a HEFCE UnLtd Social Entrepreneur Award. It was also shortlisted for the Medilink Awards for the UK’s most innovative and inspiring healthcare companies.
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