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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

What’s Your Game?

Published April 18, 2008 10:47 AM by Lisa Lombardo
I recently got a chance to try something that the rehab community has been buzzing about in some circles: therapy according to gaming.

OK, it wasn't a situation where I needed rehab, I admit. I was just hanging out with friends-one of whom has his entire living room-big-screen TV, speakers, the whole works-dedicated to what you could call an in-house "studio" solely for the purpose of, well, rocking out.

For a few hours, I found myself immersed in "Rock Band," an X-Box game system that allows "players" to assume membership in a rock band either as a singer, guitarist, bass player or drummer and "virtually" play popular rock songs, in sort of a physical Karaoke.

Right away I could see why the system and others like it, including Wii sports, would provide a unique opportunity for rehabilitation. The game was not only fun and diverting, it was also work. Even after one hour I felt my coordination improving-even though I was merely pressing a color-coded button and following the direction on the screen. As I "played" my timing and anticipation of my next move got better and better and I actually got the sense that I could "play" guitar (or at least follow notes and chords) even though I had never previously picked up the actual instrument.

Following traumatic brain injury of any sort, the mind has to go through so much to relearn natural movement, timing, coordination and dexterity. In many ways, the therapy required can resemble gaming-combining specific movements together in a coordinated way to achieve a result.

Patients can actually see that they know how to complete a movement they thought they had never learned-kind of like me and the guitar. Not to mention the fun it can provide. Hitting the right notes on time and making "music" made three hours go by like one.

Are PTs and PTAs out there considering gaming a viable way to incorporate more stimulation and cooperation in patients? If you have used computerized programs for patients and have had success, let us know. It could be a technological trend that brings music to the ears of patients with brain injury in the future.

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