Games in Healthcare

FWD News: Games Minimizing Effects of ADHD, Cerebral Palsy and Autism

Play Attention LogoAttention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) patients will soon have a new tool available to them to help them improve their ability to focus. Entitled Play Attention, the system includes gaming software and a helmet loaded with electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors that interpret the player’s brain waves. Only used in laboratory settings until now the system is being introduced across the UK in January 2010 by Games for Life.

The system has a child playing a fun educational computer game and wearing the EEG helmet. Picking up the child’s brain activity waves related to attention, the game is played without physical controls. As long as the player concentrates they control the game, but drops in attention will make the game stop. Read More...

Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire's School of Psychology found that the children's impulsive behaviour was reduced, compared to a control group who had not used the system—demonstrating the system’s effectiveness.

"Children with a diagnosis of ADHD find it hard to control their impulses and inhibit inappropriate behaviour," said Dr. Karen Pine, lead researcher. "This can lead to educational and behavioural difficulties. The Play Attention method may prevent long-term problems by helping the children to be less impulsive and more self-controlled."

"Mind-controlled educational computer games technology is the only intervention shown to reduce the core symptoms of ADHD, historically medication may have been prescribed for the child," said Ian Glasscock, Managing Director of Games for Life.

A pilot research project has found that virtual reality video games could improve hand function and forearm bone health in teens with hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy, which affects one arm and leg on the same side of the body.

Led by Meredith R. Golomb, associate professor of neurology at the Indiana University School of Medicine, the project showed that playing virtual reality games enhanced the patients’ ability to perform daily activities like eating, dressing, cooking and a variety of other tasks requiring two hands. The improvements also appeared to be reflected in brain activity changes captured through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans.

The researchers asked three participants to exercise their affected hand for 30 minutes a day, five days a week using a specially fitted sensor glove linked to a video game console installed in their home. The gameplay was also remotely monitored, to let therapists keep track of patient progress, adjusting the intensity to allow progressive work on affected muscles.

The custom games developed by the Rutgers University Tele-Rehabilitation Institute, games were calibrated to the individual teen's hand functionality, included a virtual rendition of the hand and focused on improvement of whole hand function.

"While these initial encouraging results were in teens with limited hand and arm function due to perinatal brain injury, we suspect using these games could similarly benefit individuals with other illness that affect movement, such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, arthritis and even those with orthopedic injuries affecting the arm or hand," said Golomb.

Kids living with autism spectrum disorders (ASD)—a range of neural disorders that make it hard for the brain to process sensory information like sights, sounds or social cues from other people—have a new tool to cope with their disability. Vision Audio, the makers of Electronic Auditory Stimulation effect (EASe) products that help stimulate sensory processing in ASD patients, introduced a new game title for kids.

EASe Funhouse Treasure Hunt is a brightly-coloured PC game where players guide a tractor through a disorderly toy land made up of six unique rooms. It stimulates auditory processing by encouraging listening and following verbal directions; and visual processing by giving on-screen directions to scan the environment to find hidden treasures like letters, words, faces and objects. The game encourages players to follow directions to reinforce their organization and attention skills.

While playing the game, kids will also hear EASe encoded music. Vision Audio explains that this specially filtered and modulated music is characterized by passages of muted sound, randomly punctuated by short bursts of intense high frequency. The effect on a neurologically typical individual would be agitation and discomfort, but many auditory hypersensitive children recognize the sound as calming.

“Jake was so into this game that he didn’t want to stop playing,” wrote Janine, the mother of a child with ASD. “While he is playing, he is really focused on finding the object the he’s supposed to. It definitely keeps his attention… The first thing Jake did this morning is ask to play this game again!”

A free demo is available through Vision Audio and the full version sells for $39 USD.