Tag Archives: cognitive

Gamers, Rejoice! New Science Says Video Games Improve Wellness

In 2015, a group of gamers played The Legend of Zelda for 150 hours straight to raise money for our nonprofit. Their efforts made a significant impact in the lives of our clients and their families. While Zeldathon Hope was raising over $250,000 for charity, the marathon was also raising an interesting question: are video games inherently damaging to health and wellness?

Pokemon GO

Are video games helpful or harmful to our health?

Though some interactive games like Pokémon GO may be an exception, don’t video games basically require participants to be sedentary and isolated? As reporter Martha Clement Rochford put it, “The good news for gamers is that science disagrees.” Here are 5 ways that video games can promote physical and psychological wellbeing based on recent scientific research.


Video Games Enhance Our Reaction Times And Precision


Researchers at the University of Rochester recently concluded that playing an action-based video game daily “has a beneficial effect” on players’ brains. Engaging in a stimulating gaming experience for 30 to 40 minutes per day can improve eyesight, reaction times, mental rotation capacity and the player’s ability to move efficiently from one task to the next. Researchers concluded that if games released in the future are planned and developed specifically for people with chronic conditions, they “can help patients with chronic illness, anxiety and pain management” by encouraging healthy cognitive development and greater physical strength and dexterity.

Call of Duty

Action games “generated a moderate helpful effect on the overall cognition”

Other recent studies have corroborated those claims, finding that “action games generated a moderate helpful effect on the overall cognition.” Action games like Call of Duty help to develop “fast and precise responses” and “may produce structural changes in the brain“ by encouraging greater neural plasticity, particularly in young adults whose brains are still developing. Greater neural plasticity means an enhanced ability to learn and remember new information, adapt to change or react quickly to new circumstances and challenges.


Video Games Help Us Study And Fight Cognitive Decline


A trial in the United Kingdom is studying how Parkinson’s disease impacts cognition. The twist? Researchers will be using “a scientifically-designed video game as a non-invasive medical device.” The game will be specialized based on each participant’s unique mental processing and memory storage challenges and will offer “holistic training” to improve memory, processing speed, function and attention.

Link Zelda

New games could be used “as a non-invasive medical device” for cognitive training

For now, the initiative will focus exclusively on testing the potential for video games to improve life for people living with Parkinson’s disease, but the results could influence how medical professionals assess and treat multiple cognitive conditions, including traumatic brain injuries, PTSD and “cognitive deficit caused by cancer.”


Video Games Can Be A Physical Rehabilitation Tool


“When I was at Rusk Rehab at NYU Langone,” explains HelpHOPELive client Nicole Seefeldt, “I saw the hospital-based rehab center using Wii Fit and Wii Sport to rehab certain skills in their patients at all age groups. It inspired me to get one because I saw that patients were not only enjoying it but receiving benefits from it.

Wii

Nicole saw Wii games used as tools for hospital-based rehabilitation

Nicole also believes apps can help encourage people to engage with physical therapy and get in touch with their health in a way that “is a lot more dynamic than just sitting in a chair with weights. Several systems also have brain games which are good to play for cognitive development, too.”


Video Games Have Meaningful Psychological Benefits  


Gaming doesn’t just physically alter and improve your cognitive capacity. According to studies on the psychology of gaming, “gamers can address their fundamental psychological needs through playing games.” As cyberpsychologist Berni Good concluded, gaming can help players to feel competent as they master each level and challenge, which improves their psychological wellbeing. Whether through a multiplayer online game, couch co-op or a little social media gloating, gaming can also help players to “relate to others in a meaningful way” as they collaborate on game challenges and share their experiences with others.

Zelda coop

Personal achievements and co-op play can improve psychological wellbeing

Don’t think these results only apply to massive multiplayer action wars or shoot-‘em-up thrillers. Gaming can also tap into “the idea that we need to be masters of our own destiny,” encouraging players to feel like they are making independent choices that are reflected in real-time changes to the game environment or questlines.

Zeldathon

Moffit (center) believes gaming for good can lead to emotional fulfillment

Combine video games with good deeds, like the Zeldathon Hope team, and you have a recipe for social and emotional fulfillment. “We’re creating something more than just a marathon,” explained Zeldathon founder Matthew Moffit. “We’re a real community, dedicated to forces of good. We like to think that we’re working to defeat the evils of the world through our marathon.”


Video Games Help Us Track And Treat Chronic Symptoms


Microsoft Research in Cambridge is tapping into the Xbox Kinect tactile gaming platform to support people living with multiple sclerosis. The console’s motion sensor system will be integral to new research on the effectiveness of MS treatments and the progression of symptoms. Through Kinect-compatible tests, people with MS will be asked to move or touch certain parts of their body and researchers will use a rating scale to track the strength of MS symptoms that affect mobility.

kinect

The Xbox Kinect has been used to track MS symptoms

A recent study found that cognitive training video games developed by neuroscientists could help people with MS to strengthen their neural connections to promote cognitive wellness. MS can impact the thalamus in the center of the brain, leading to the cognitive dysfunction or “brain fog” experience in people living with the condition.

Study participants “had significant increases in thalamic functional connectivity” after participating. One researcher concluded that “video games can promote brain plasticity and can aid in cognitive rehabilitation” for people experiencing cognitive dysfunction due to MS or other brain-disrupting chronic conditions. Researchers hope to use their findings to add to existing rehabilitation pathways for people with MS.


A Bright Future For Gaming-Based Research And Treatment 


Video game platforms and interfaces continue to evolve year after year, and researchers are chomping at the bit to assess their health and wellness applications. In fact, though virtual reality has just barely reached the consumer market, it is already being used to test and diagnose individuals with cognition and memory challenges. It’s good news across the board for gamers, who now have a tangible way to defend their digital obsessions with legitimate scientific research.

virtual reality gaming

Virtual reality is already being used to diagnose some cognition issues

Think these findings supersede the need for balance and moderation in gaming? “When we think about the effect of video games on the brain, it’s very similar to the effect of wine on health,” explained Dr. Daphne Bavelier in a TED Talk. “There are some very poor uses of wine. There are some very poor uses of video games.” But, as new research proves, “when consumed in reasonable doses,” video games can be a beneficial tool for managing symptoms, improving cognition and building positive psychological foundations.


Are you a gamer living with a chronic condition or disability? We’d love to hear about your experiences with gaming and wellness on Facebook.

4 Things You Need To Know About Your TBI

March 18 is Brain Injury Awareness Day. To honor TBI survivors and their daily struggle to find a ‘new normal,’ we’ve created this Guest Post with Huffington Post writer and TBI survivor Amy Zellmer. If you’ve experienced a TBI, here are four things you need to know right now, and four ways to find support.

Brain Injury Awareness Day HelpHOPELive

March 18 is Brain Injury Awareness Day.

One: It’s normal to feel angry, afraid or stressed out.

A TBI can spark a range of confusing emotions, from anxiety and apprehension to anger, helplessness and panic. Zellmer confirmed that after her TBI, she constantly felt afraid of sustaining a second injury and daunted at the prospect of managing her TBI symptoms for the rest of her life.

Some TBI sufferers encounter “a daily struggle even trying to get out of bed in the morning,” said Zellmer. “They are terrified of what might happen to them next. Some have such profound anxiety that they can hardly leave their home.” Zellmer cautioned that attitude shifts after a TBI can be severe. “My personality has changed,” she said, “and I am aware of my mood swings…sometimes the bad days are just more than I can handle.”

Find Support: Zellmer notes that the fear, anxiety and helplessness that you feel can be successfully managed and treated. Sticking to a routine, staying involved in the activities you enjoy, and accepting that your feelings are normal are helpful first steps.

For additional support, there is no shame in seeking professional help. “Seeing a therapist on a regular basis has really helped me deal with my PTSD issues and fear of hurting myself,” said Zellmer. “A therapist is not there to judge you or tell you you’re right or wrong. They are there to help you sort through your emotions and anxiety to relieve yourself of the negatives in your life.”

Anger HelpHOPELive Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness

It’s normal to feel angry, afraid or resentful post-TBI.

Two: Cognitive issues can catch you off guard.

There are multiple cognitive symptoms that might affect your daily life after a TBI. For Zellmer, cognitive issues following her TBI were both frustrating and disruptive. “We [as TBI survivors] have cognitive deficiencies that don’t make sense, even to us,” Zellmer noted. “The confused woman in the kitchen staring at the oven is someone I am just now starting to understand,” she said. “I am finally coming to terms with this ‘new me.’”

Find Support: According to Zellmer, the cognitive issues associated with your “invisible” injury can make you feel isolated, judged or misunderstood. “After my TBI, I felt isolated and alone,” said Zellmer. “No one really seemed to understand what I was going through, or possibly, they didn’t believe it was as severe as it was. When injuries and illnesses are invisible like TBI, it’s easy for others to say, ‘well, you look normal, so you must be okay.’”

Zellmer responded to this isolation with action: “I created a group on Facebook for survivors to hang out and feel like they fit in. Many were craving this sort of connection and community.”

Speaking with like-minded TBI survivors may significantly improve your mood and outlook. The connections may even help your brain to physically heal. “For me, personally,” said Zellmer, “once I began to understand that my symptoms were normal and fit the scale of what others were dealing with, it really started to help my healing and the grieving process as I let go of the ‘old me.’”

Brain Injury Awareness HelpHOPELive memory

A TBI can result in multiple cognitive symptoms, including memory lapses.

Three: Every TBI is different.

For some, a TBI comes with constant physical pain and overwhelming fatigue. For others, the injury is synonymous with constant confusion and debilitating memory impairment. Your TBI is as unique as you are, and your symptoms may be a one-of-a-kind blend of physical or mental challenges. Ultimately you are the only expert on your unique circumstances and struggles following a TBI.

Find Support: For Zellmer, finding an outlet for her emotions and thoughts was an important step in the recovery process. At first, said Zellmer, “I didn’t have the courage. I [was] scared…scared that people will be snarky or rude….scared of reliving the fall.” Zellmer realized that releasing her emotions would allow her to support other TBI survivors and conquer her own fears about her experiences. “Writing is your therapy, Amy,” she said to herself to combat the doubts.

“Finding your ‘new normal’ is an important part of recovery and healing,” said Zellmer. “Get out and get active or find a hobby.” Not all hobbies will bring you as much satisfaction as frustration: “Many of us can’t deal with computer screens or loud stimulation, so finding a new alternative can be challenging, but rewarding when you find it,” Zellmer said.

Brain Injury Awareness HelpHOPELive outlet

A positive outlet can help you come with your emotions post-TBI.

Four: TBIs are expensive to rehabilitate.

The average lifetime cost for a TBI averages $85,000 but expenses for a severe TBI can top $3 million. The recovery process may call for therapy, physical rehabilitation, extensive medical testing, medication, transportation to specialization centers and regular GP or hospital visits. Some costs, including temporary housing and transportation, may not be completely covered by all insurance plans.

Find Support: HelpHOPELive supports TBI patients in their recovery process by providing assistance with fundraising both online and in your community. If you are struggling with the costs associated with your TBI, learn about your options at m.helphopelive.org/supportforinjury.

Zellmer noted the importance of finding professionals who will give you the support and insight you need to recover. “Find a doctor who understands and ‘gets’ you and your TBI,” she recommended. “If you’re not happy with the one you’ve got, look for another, or ask for a referral from someone in your area.” Finding the right recovery team for you may be an ongoing process. “Be an advocate for your health!” Zellmer urged.

You don’t have to face your TBI alone.

Though every TBI is unique, you don’t have to struggle with the symptoms of your TBI without support. Zellmer releases regular blog posts on The Huffington Post for TBI survivors.

Brain Injury Awareness HelpHOPELive support

53 million U.S. citizens are living with a brain injury. You are not alone.

“Know that you are not alone,” said Zellmer. “There are approximately 53 million people in the U.S. living with a brain injury. There are many groups out there trying to help raise awareness. Get involved! Join support groups. Get active. Embrace your new life!”

Talk to us about your post-TBI journey on Facebook or on Twitter.