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Cystic Fibrosis Game a Breath of Fresh Air

A Child with Cystic FibrosisA new game is currently being developed using biofeedback to help kids with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) manage their breathing. The project is led by a team of students at the Champlain College Emergent Media Center in collaboration with Peter Bingham, a University of Vermont associate professor of neurology. It is sponsored through a $189,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The game will make use of a breath biofeedback device developed by UVM engineers with help from John Cohn, a senior scientist at IBM. Its goal is to get the young patients to perform breathing exercises — including forceful exhalations — that help clear airways. The regimen is useful for Cystic Fibrosis patients of all ages, but the idea is to instill the practice in younger patients. Read More...

"We know that eye-hand coordination can be improved by playing video games, but eye-breath coordination is something new," said Bingham. "With the help of some very creative patients with CF, we hope to devise a completely new kind of game that helps kids to connect with each other about breathing and puts CF patients more in charge of their own health. We feel lucky to have the people at Champlain College to work with us on this project."

In addition to potentially helping Cystic Fibrosis patients self-manage their condition and maintain better health, the game may also be useful for children and adults with asthma and other forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Working in two separate teams, the Champlain students are designing an exploratory game as well as a racing game with the same purpose. Their goal is to find a fun vehicle so the kids can stay committed. When doing the breathing exercises on their own, the young patients tend to get bored. “A game gives them something to do,” says Alison Seffels, one of the Champlain students who has been researching the target population.

“This age range is very information-driven,” said Tim Miner, another designer. “They’re Web children. They were born when the Internet started” and they’ve been at it since “they were old enough to bang on the keyboard.”

"This collaboration plays to some of the key strengths of the UVM College of Medicine and Champlain College," said Ann DeMarle, director of Champlain's Emergent Media Center. "The particular combination of disciplines required to tackle this issue presents the perfect opportunity for our students to work with young patients, faculty and researchers to create media that could positively impact their lives as well as those of other cystic fibrosis patients."