Games For Health

Originally published March 2006

Now who'd go around calling gamers brain-dead?

Well, actually, I can think of at least one individual, but, thankfully, we've not seen hide nor hair of him around here for a while, so it's probably best not to rattle his cage.

Anyway: turns out, as part of a larger program of treatment, videogames can actually bring a dead brain back to "life", reports C|Net.

Ethan Myers was involved in a car accident in 2002, with doctors claiming that he would never walk, talk or feed himself again after he awoke from a month-long coma.

However, just shy of a year, after starting game-flavoured treatment using a system snappily-named CyberLearning Smart BrainGames, his parents are reporting that "In the last year, we've seen the Ethan we knew before the accident".

"Neurofeedback", based on a system used to keep NASA pilots calm and awake, the game modifies the controls of the game so that when the brain reacts in a particular way it becomes easier to control the game- "rewarding" the development of otherwise strained or damaged grey matter.

This isn't the only time, of course, that games have been shown to have positive effects on health- not only the cranial effects of Nintendo's Brain Training that we mentioned the other week, but also the haemotologial field of Diabetes.

Nintendo, in association with Californian devco Realtime Associates and Washington doctor Harold Goldberg, have developed a system to help diabetics with computers, smart phones, or, oddly, Gameubes to test their own blood sugar levels and send them off to their doctor.

Not that Neurofeedback is without its detractors, such as New York's Dr. Andrew Adesman- "We have some very effective treatments for kids with ADHD, I'd be concerned about parents pursuing expensive and not very established treatments in lieu of more proven therapies." although some may point out that it- unlike standard therapy, education, and lazy favourite Ritalin- is not covered by health insurance.

A Cali doctor makes an observation He Who Must Not Be Named has also been bouncing about- "This isn't something you can just play with...You could train the wrong thing and cause someone to become more anxious and irritable". But then, Ethan's own doctor says "Kids can become less agitated, more calm and less angry, It's much more engaging."

Only time will tell us who's right.
Unedited! Published!

No prizes for guessing who I keep having a jab at in this story. I'm quite happy with the way the original came out, if it's a little too close to those oft-parodied human interest stories US news TV get criticised for. Sadly a lot of the second-and-third-to-last paragraphs got cut out, which sort of ruins the final one, but that's life.

Website (C) Mark Kelly 2002-5.

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