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Checkup Medical Column for Dec 16

AAP logoAAP 15/12/2016 By Sarah Wiedersehn



Wii sports games are not only fun, they help stroke patients restore movement, Australian researchers have found.

Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability in Australia, with almost 440,000 people living with the after-effects.

Sixty-five per cent of those afflicted suffer a disability that impedes their ability to carry out daily living activities unassisted.

Studies conducted at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) have found Wii-based Movement Therapy (WMT) - that is 60 minutes per day of playing Wii Sports games like golf or tennis - not only restores upper limb mobility, it improves lower limb movement and cardiovascular health in participants.

Both studies compared WMT with modified Constraint-induced Movement Therapy (mCMIT) and found WMT boasts additional benefits.

"Our study shows us Wii-based therapy provides three essential benefits to stroke survivors," said neurophysiologist Dr Penelope McNulty.

After receiving this treatment their stepping as well as arm and hand movements were improved and many enjoyed the additional benefit of increased cardiovascular fitness.

"We were pleasantly surprised with these results," said Dr McNulty.

Dr McNulty says the research emphasises the need to increase physical activity post-stroke.


If you're going through a stressful time or just feeling a bit anxious, you may want to start taking probiotics.

This is the advice from a Griffith University study showing consumption of probiotics may have advantageous effects on mental health by lessening the psychological symptoms of perceived stress, depression and anxiety.

Published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, the study reviewed the results of seven previous studies which tested for symptoms in over 300 healthy volunteers both before and after supplementation with a probiotic.

"We combined the data from a number of clinical trials to conduct a powerful analysis of probiotic research," said dietitian Dr Natalie Colson from Griffith's Menzies Health Institute Queensland.

"The overall result was significant in demonstrating that taking probiotics in some form, for example tablet or yoghurt, can help alleviate symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety in otherwise healthy people," Dr Colson added.

The research into the relationship between the gut and the brain is reasonably new but scientists have been gaining a better understanding about the "gut brain axis" of late.

"We can see that if the gut microbiome is not operating at an optimal level, and it communicates with your brain, then it may well negatively affect the way that you feel and think.

"Therefore by adding what we believe to be a mixture of good 'multi-species' bacteria to your gut microbiome, this may reduce these negative feelings," said Dr Colson, who conceded more studies are needed.

"We don't know yet how far this could be used in the treatment of depression, however the gut microbiome presents as a potential target for the treatment of cognitive and mood disorders."


New research has confirmed the link between alcohol and other drugs and domestic violence, showing heavy binge drinking doubles the risk of family or intimate partner violence.

The study, Alcohol/Drug-Involved Family Violence in Australia (ADIVA), was completed by researchers from Deakin University's School of Psychology and funded by the National Drug Law Enforcement Fund.

The three-year research project surveyed more than 5000 people and analysed police data from across the country, finding those who reported their partners engaged in heavy binge drinking were nearly six times more likely to report their partners had been violent towards them.

Lead researcher Professor Peter Miller said alcohol-related incidents were also more severe and much more likely to involve physical violence and result in physical, psychological or emotional injury than those where no alcohol was involved.

"Heavy drinking was also found to be associated with increased levels of coercive controlling behaviour, which includes emotional, psychological and physical abuse of a partner," he said.

While drug use was only involved in a small minority of cases (10.5 per cent), illicit drug users were almost three times more likely than non-users to report recent violence.

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