Innovative Games Improve Brain Fitness

September Newsletter 4Video games are driving health-related research and advancements.  Today, doctors are using entertainment software technology as a diagnostic, preventative, and educational tool for brain-related illnesses.

New research, funded by the National Institute of Aging and the National Institute of Nursing Research, sheds light on the potential for computer exercise programs to help lower the likelihood of developing dementia in old age.  The results of the 10-year-long study found that the benefits of computer-based speed training exceeded those gained by similar offline brain-training exercises – notably memory and reasoning training. Researchers also discovered that completing a total of 11 to 14 hours of speed training has the potential to reduce the risk of developing dementia 10 years later by as much as 48 percent. The results of the study represent the first scientific evidence of behavioral intervention reducing the risk of developing dementia.

This promising development is not the only area of medical research made possible by gaming technology; games today are also being used as diagnostic tools. Doctors have begun utilizing virtual reality to test for traumatic brain injury and assess brain functions of their patients. Virtual reality testing, which enables doctors to study a patient’s brain waves as they navigate a virtual maze through 3D glasses, can measure brain health within minutes. The test boasts a 90 percent accuracy rate and offers doctors the ability to improve patient care.

“Virtual reality testing is a good example of the changes occurring with brain rehab and diagnosis of brain disorders,” Dr. Stephen Scranton told ABC 7 Chicago. “It is able to tell us impairment of special memory, balance and other domains that can’t be measured by standard neurocognitive testing that we would otherwise use.”

Doctors in sports medicine have also harnessed the power of video games to improve brain health. Dr. Gillian Hotz, director of the KiDZ Neuroscience Center and the sports concussion program at the University of Miami, recently developed SportzSafe, an educational video game that teaches young athletes about concussions, including tools for how to identify, treat, and prevent them. The game could hold the keys to decreasing instances of traumatic brain injury incurred by playing contact sports.

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