Stories about: gaming

Bringing gaming to mental health: My one-minute pitch at SXSW

Neuro'motion cofounders (L-R): Gonzalez-Heydrich, Kahn, Ducharme
Neuro’motion cofounders (L-R): Gonzalez-Heydrich, Kahn, Ducharme

Jason Kahn, PhD, is a co-founder of Neuro’motion, a research associate at Boston Children’s Hospital, and a part-time instructor at Harvard Medical School.

Earlier this month, I traveled to SXSW Interactive 2015 to introduce my company, Neuro’motion. We build mobile video games and toys to build emotional strength in children, improve access to mental health care and provide a drug-free alternative for behavioral health. We were born from research at Boston Children’s Hospital and our mission is to get our games into as many people’s hands as possible.

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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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The brain whisperer: Tracking EEG footprints of autism and mental illness

EEG signals may reflect underlying brain connectivity patterns in autism. This brain has less dense local clusters linked by long-range connections, which may represent a normal pattern. The brain at right has denser, more uniform local connectivity with fewer long-distance connections in some regions.

Bill Bosl is used to looking for patterns. A computer scientist trained in atmospheric physics, geophysics and mathematics, he’s invented a method for computing properties of porous materials from CT scans. At the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, he worked on remote sensing problems, reading complex wave patterns to discern the location of groundwater, oil deposits and fault lines.

Today, he’s trying to measure thought – to compute what’s going on in hard-to-understand disorders like autism, which is currently diagnosed purely on the basis of behavior.  “The mathematical methods are very similar,” he says. “You’re analyzing waves.”

The waves in this case are electroencephalograms (EEGs), those squiggly lines generated by electrical activity in the brain. In autism,

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Kids with cerebral palsy test the latest touchscreen technology

Last month, pediatric specialists from across town visited Children’s Hospital Boston for demos of a technology designed to motivate children with cerebral palsy (CP) to do their occupational therapy. Created by a multidisciplinary team from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital (SRH) and the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the system uses a three-foot wide tabletop touchscreen donated by Microsoft Surface–imagine a giant iPad.

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Better anger management through video games

I’m playing Space Invaders on a laptop in front of a group of psychiatrists and social workers, and frankly feeling pretty nervous. My finger is attached to a pulse oximeter, which measures my heart rate. As I struggle with the arrow keys to hit the incoming targets, I notice I’m shooting blanks. I take a deep breath to try to calm down.  My heart rate drops, and once again I’m firing real missiles, scoring hits.

This same game, adapted from the old 1978 Space Invaders, is being tested in young psychiatry patients here

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