Players of the Circus Game Challenge use wireless controllers to try traditional circus acts like juggling, plate spinning and lion taming.
Experts have said that the computer game provides a cheaper alternative to other forms of therapy because the patient can use it at home on their own.
Janet Eyre, Professor of Paediatric Neuroscience at Newcastle University, said: “With our video game, people get engrossed in the competition and action of the circus characters and forget that the purpose of the game is for therapy.”
She added that “the brain can re-learn control of the weak arm but this needs frequent therapy over many months and there are not enough therapists to provide this on a one-to-one basis,” again highlighting the game’s ability to help those who do not have consistent access to an experienced physiotherapist.
Funding for the project came from a £1.5 million grant from the Health Innovation Challenge Fund.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer and chief medical adviser at the the Department of Health, said: “The government is committed to supporting such work and bringing breakthroughs from every area – even video gaming – to the front line of patient care.”
About 150,000 people in the UK suffer a stroke each year, which costs the economy £4 billion in care. Four out of five of these people do not regain full control of their hand and arm functions so the new technology could help to enhance their motor skills and reduce costs.