A project is encouraging youngsters with cerebral palsy to play computer games in a bid to strengthen weakened muscles.
The research, funded by the Children's Foundation charity, looks at how specially-written Nintendo Wii programmes can help improve muscle movement and hand-eye co-ordination in children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy.
About one in 1,000 children suffers from hemiplegia – a type of cerebral palsy that affects one arm and one leg on the same side of the body. The new games have been designed to improve these children's control of their disabled – or paretic – arm.
Lead researcher Professor Janet Eyre of Newcastle University's Institute of Neuroscience said: "The children find it very hard to move this arm so it gets stiffer and stiffer. These games mean you have to use two hands co-operatively and we have designed the games so there is quite a lot of eye movement. We're trying to use the knowledge we have to create games which are fun to play."
Children trying out the games have been given both Nintendo Wii controllers and a laptop with games adapted to suit their specific needs, which are less fast-paced and complex than commercial versions.