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Computer Games To Improve Brain Power

Computer Games To Improve Brain Power

Future Doctors Prescriptions May Include Computer Games To Improve Mental Health...

Over the recent years, computer games and simulations have been inching their way into the medical world. Helping to improve health and fitness, as well as mental acuity, experts say we can expect to see more games geared for medical use, especially those focusing on improving brain functions.

Wii Therapy

Wii Therapy

Earlier this month, around 350 medical experts, computer gaming developers, and entrepreneurs gathered for the fifth annual Games for Health Conference in Boston, a conference that for the first time, introduced a day of sessions dedicated to gaming and cognitive health.

The day included presentations by researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The topics covered ranged from the use of gaming to change behavior, to helping neurodegenerative disease patients improve balance.

Alvaro Fernandez, CEO and co-founder of Sharp Brains, a San Francisco market research firm that specializes in cognitive science, and that organized the conference said:

“Ten years ago, researchers wouldn’t have thought this could happen…
“Now we’re seeing that brain games may be able to help with attention, memory and the ability to regulate stress,”

Alvaro described how products can come in many formats such as CD-ROMs, iPhone applications, handheld devices, while others, like Wii, have been adapted for big screens and group sessions. The Nintendo Wii is a great example of how a household gaming console quickly became a workout tool for thousands. Picture below is James Mann, 70 of Louisburg, using the Wii during a physiotherapy session with his recreational therapist Elizabeth Penny.

James Mann Wii Therapy

James Mann Wii Therapy

One company, Luminosity, offer an online birdwatching game, that aims at improving attention and the ability to process visual information. Another, HelpForADD, has a range of games and exercises to help those with ADD.

While there is a lot of pilot research looking at how gaming can help patients though a range of illnesses, experts like David Rabiner, director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, say more is needed to fully understand what kind of games and how much time with them will make a difference.

Murali Doraiswamy, chief of Biological Psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center also explained how gaming and medicine are such disparate fields, that little has been done previously to bridge the gap.

“We’re on the cusp of something big. What it needs to galvanize is discussion between academia, government agencies, gaming companies and insurance companies,” Doraiswamy says.

“There are two streams of thought right now: Do you take something healthy and try to make it fun or something fun and try to make it healthy?” he says.


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