Get Regular Updates!



Edith Cowan University

Gaming: fun and functional?

Gaming: fun and functional?

Gaming is fun, sure, but what if it could help build your strength and improve your cognition as well?

Gaming: fun and functional?

A research team at Edith Cowan University (ECU) is about to start testing MindPod, an immersive animated gaming experience, for its potential to aid people with a variety of neurological conditions such as stroke and multiple sclerosis (MS).

The research is the first in a series of projects funded by MSWA, in partnership with ECU.

What’s MindPod?

Created at Johns Hopkins University, MindPod is composed of a screen featuring an animated game which works together with a motion capture system. An exoskeleton encapsulates the arms of the participant to provide extra support.

In the game, the participant is responsible for the life of a dolphin called Bandit. During each session, players use whole arm movements to guide Bandit through various scenarios to complete tasks like catching and eating fish and swimming away from sharks.

The task of promoting the recovery of motor skills in the upper body and related cognitive functions can be hard. The main purpose of MindPod is to make the task at hand more enjoyable. In addition to piquing the participant’s interest with a game, MindPod’s exoskeleton also physically supports the participant.

The idea behind it is that it’s fun and engaging.

The spring-operated exoskeleton comes in the form of a vest that is worn by the participant.

“It takes a bit of weight off the arms, which makes it easier to move,” explains Dr Onno van der Groen, Postdoctoral Fellow at ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences.

So, gaming is good?

“We know we need high-dose, high-intensity therapy to improve arm function,” says Onno.

“So it’s designed to be engaging in order to boost the mind and arm function and the amount of training that people do.”

In the trial, participants have to exercise their upper bodies for 90 minutes at a time, three times a week for 7 weeks. It’s no mean feat.

But when you say participants will be guiding a dolphin for 90 minutes at a time, three times a week for 7 weeks? Well, it sounds like a whole different story.

The project is a clever way to keep both the mind and the body active. And Onno predicts it could also have positive effects on an individual’s attention, balance and mood.

View Larger
Image|ECU (SMHS)
A study participant using MindPod

But does it work?

The research team at ECU are still at the initial phase of a feasibility study for the MS trial so no data is available yet. However, another trial they are working on involving stroke patients has started showing some promising results.

“[One participant] wasn’t able to hang out the washing before the trial. After 20 weeks, she was able to do it.”

The observation is yet to be investigated further for any changes in neural pathways, such as capturing MRI scans. But according to Onno, it is a promising sign of changes happening in the brain.

where to from here?

Access to equipment like MindPod is currently limited. However, Onno sees a future in which these tools become a common feature of rehabilitation hospitals where patients can complete training after hours – on porpoise – and have fun while doing it.

“Maybe in the future, it’s like a Timezone ward for neurological rehabilitation!”

It’s a promising prospect.


Particle Puns


Creative Commons Logo

Republishing our content

We want our stories to be shared and seen by as many people as possible.

Therefore, unless it says otherwise, copyright on the stories on Particle belongs to Scitech and they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This allows you to republish our articles online or in print for free. You just need to credit us and link to us, and you can’t edit our material or sell it separately.

Using the ‘republish’ button on our website is the easiest way to meet our guidelines.


You cannot edit the article.

When republishing, you have to credit our authors, ideally in the byline. You have to credit Particle with a link back to the original publication on Particle.

If you’re republishing online, you must use our pageview counter, link to us and include links from our story. Our page view counter is a small pixel-ping (invisible to the eye) that allows us to know when our content is republished. It’s a condition of our guidelines that you include our counter. If you use the ‘republish’ then you’ll capture our page counter.

If you’re republishing in print, please email us to let us so we know about it (we get very proud to see our work republished) and you must include the Particle logo next to the credits. Download logo here.

If you wish to republish all our stories, please contact us directly to discuss this opportunity.


Most of the images used on Particle are copyright of the photographer who made them.

It is your responsibility to confirm that you’re licensed to republish images in our articles.


All Particle videos can be accessed through YouTube under the Standard YouTube Licence.

The Standard YouTube licence

  1. This licence is ‘All Rights Reserved’, granting provisions for YouTube to display the content, and YouTube’s visitors to stream the content. This means that the content may be streamed from YouTube but specifically forbids downloading, adaptation, and redistribution, except where otherwise licensed. When uploading your content to YouTube it will automatically use the Standard YouTube licence. You can check this by clicking on Advanced Settings and looking at the dropdown box ‘License and rights ownership’.
  2. When a user is uploading a video he has license options that he can choose from. The first option is “standard YouTube License” which means that you grant the broadcasting rights to YouTube. This essentially means that your video can only be accessed from YouTube for watching purpose and cannot be reproduced or distributed in any other form without your consent.


For more information about using our content, email us:

Copy this HTML into your CMS
Press Ctrl+C to copy

We've got chemistry. Want something physical?