Research: Games Are Therapeutic to Patients With Chronic Illnesses

A new research paper from University of Utah Professor Carol Bruggers comes to the conclusion that video games can be therapeutic to patients suffering from a variety of illnesses including cancer, diabetes, asthma, depression, autism and Parkinson's disease. The new research paper, "Patient-Empowerment Interactive Technologies," has been published within the pages of the September 19 issue of the Science Translational Medicine journal. Carol Bruggers is a professor at the University of Utah's Department of Pediatrics and physician at Primary Children's Medical Center.

Other contributors to the research included faculty from the University of Utah's Department of Pediatrics, the Brain Institute, College of Fine Arts, College of Pharmacy, School of Computing, Pierre Lassonde Entrepreneur Center, recent graduates from the Entertainment Arts and Engineering (EAE) Master's program, and a current medical student.

The research details the affects of using therapeutic video games, including the team's own Patient Empowerment Exercise Video Game to promote improving resilience, creating empowerment, and fostering a fighting spirit in pediatric oncology patients. Researchers also looked at other games that have proven to provide some benefits to patients with chronic diseases.

Researchers analyzed clinical data on "health-related games," including sedentary games and "exergames" available on Wii, Xbox 360 (using Kinect), and PlayStation 3 (we assume using either the EyeToy or Move).

Bruggers claims that a number of published studies are showing promising data on how games can enhance health-related behavioral changes and self-management of obesity, neurological disorders, cancer or asthma.

"We envision interactive exergames designed to enhance patient empowerment, compliance and clinical outcomes for specific disease categories," she said.

The Utah researchers also say that video games can serve as an enhancement to traditional therapies that involve medication in changing behavior. Ultimately games engage patients and give them motivation against whatever illness they might be fighting.

Grzegorz Bulaj, an associate professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Utah, adds that playing games may have an impact because of the chemicals they can produce in the brain of a patient:

"Research shows that playing video games increases levels of dopamine in the brain, but whether interactive technologies can mimic actions of pharmacological drugs remains unknown. Nonetheless, our study points towards video games becoming a part of personalized medicine, helping and bringing smiles to individual patients, doctors, nurses and physical therapists. Our paper shows these games offer great promise, but we also looked at the challenges of delivering safe, efficacious and fun-loaded therapeutic games."

Source: News Medical


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