Author: Sarah Mahoney

Using dynamics from gaming to improve people’s health

Games lure people to make visits at specific times... can they help patients keep medical appointments?

This past October I attended the Health 2.0 conference, where there was a lot of discussion on the use of niche social networking sites to empower and inform patients, caregivers and families. There is a lot of debate about these communities, but one thing that’s not debatable is their popularity.

MedHelp, for example, has over 12 million monthly users. Patientslikeme – originally designed, by three MIT engineers, for patients with ALS – now has more than 100,000 members and 500 health conditions. Daily Strength has more than 500 communities, including breast cancer, depression, cystic fibrosis, divorce, infertility and parenting. WEGO Health, Alliance Health … the list goes on. Sites like TuDiabetes that let patients share and analyze their health data are starting to be tapped for public health surveillance.

The increase in sites has their owners coming up with new and innovative ways to draw members. One strategy is incorporating game mechanics or game dynamics theories.

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Serendipity in science: Collaborating to build robotic clothing for brain-damaged children

A sequence of motion frames of a normally kicking baby's legs (shown in blue and green), illustrating changing joint angles at the hip and knee.

Countless scientific epiphanies never leave the bench – unless there’s the kind of serendipitous encounter that set Children’s Hospital Boston psychologist Gene Goldfield on a path he never expected to follow.

One in eight babies are born prematurely, putting them at greater risk for cerebral palsy, an inability to fully control their muscles. Goldfield saw these children being wheeled around the hospital, and was convinced that they did not have to be wheelchair-bound.

During early infancy, he knew, the developing brain naturally undergoes a rewiring of its circuits, including those that control the muscles. Could some type of early intervention encourage more typical motor development by replacing damaged circuits with more functional connections?

At Children’s Innovators’ Forum last week, Goldfield discussed his envisioned solution: the use of programmable robots

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