GAMES FOR HEALTH JOURNAL: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications Volume 2, Number 4, 2013 ª Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. DOI: 10.1089/g4h.2013.0618

News from the Field

Exergaming Boosts Physical Activity Levels High-intensity exergaming (HiE), such as 200-m hurdles, created large increases in heart rate and energy expenditure, associated with positive effects on vascular function and ‘‘suggests that an acute bout of HiE may provide a substrate for beneficial arterial adaptations in children,’’ according to a study in The Journal of Pediatrics conducted by researchers at The University of Western Australia and the Liverpool John Moores University and Swansea University in the United Kingdom. The results did not hold during low-intensity exergaming, such as bowling. The study involved 15 children, 9–11 years of age. Each participated in 15 minutes of highintensity and low-intensity exergames and a graded exercise test. More information is available at: article/S0022-3476(13)00395-8/fulltext or content/JPEDSMillsNaylor Fall Prevention Game Developer Turns to Crowdfunding Blue Marble Game Co. of Los Angeles, CA, has turned to crowdfunding for money to further develop ‘‘Zoezi Park Falls Prevention,’’ a gesture-based game, which draws on studies that show the exercise program can reduce falls by 35 percent. It is designed for people 65 years of age or older and provides increasingly difficult challenges, such as hip abduction exercises. Both healthy people wanting to avoid a fall and people who have fallen and are undergoing physical or occupational therapy to improve their balance and strength can use it. It also can be used in a group setting, such as a senior citizen center or a gym. The game records the person’s performance for review by that individual or a healthcare professional. The project had previously received a National Institutes of Aging grant, but that funding has dried up because of the government’s budget sequestration. More information is available at: or Game Developer Upgrades ‘‘RunKeeper’’ FitnessKeeper of Boston, MA, has upgraded ‘‘RunKeeper,’’ a GPS tracking program to tally runs, bike rides and walks. The new version (version 3.5) features a mobile leaderboard and a social feed, which allows users to follow friends’ activities and progress, comment, and show support. During a run, the game will coach the user with audio cues. Participants can see how their workout compares with their personal best through a detailed history of activities. ‘‘RunKeeper’’ is available for iPhone (Apple, Cupertino, CA) and Android (Google, Mountain View, CA) devices. The basic game is free; the upgraded ‘‘RunKeeper Elite’’ requires a monthly or annual fee. ‘‘Elite’’ members can check their

progress against that of other people for a similar workout. More information is available at: Videogamers See More Researchers at Duke University in Durham, NC, report that videogame playing may enhance players’ sensitivity to visual stimuli but that the players do not retain the information better. The team enrolled 125 participants, either nongame players or intense players of action videogames, in the study. Those participants completed a visual sensory memory task that flashed a circular arrangement of eight letters for one-tenth of a second. Then after a delay ranging from 13 milliseconds to 2.5 seconds, an arrow appeared, pointing to one spot on the circle where a letter had been. Participants were asked to identify which letter had been in that spot. Intensive players outperformed those who did not normally play games in recalling the letter. Gamers tend to get better with time and experience. Greg Appelbaum, an assistant professor of psychiatry in the Duke University School of Medicine, said it is possible that the gamers see more immediately and that they are better able to make correct decisions from the information they have available. ‘‘Gamers see the world differently,’’ Appelbaum said. ‘‘They are able to extract more information from a visual scene.’’ The findings were published in the journal Attention, Perception and Psychophysics. More information is available at: http:// Lazy Eye Videogame Project Receives Funding The Health Research Council of New Zealand will fund the development of a videogame-based treatment for ‘‘lazy eye’’ or amblyopia. The game to be played on an iPod Touch (Apple, Cupertino, CA) has shown in preliminary studies to be effective in improving adult and child players’ sharpness of vision and three-dimensional vision. Benjamin Thompson at the University of Auckland will conduct a randomized clinical trial using the game. The $1.16 million grant is part of a $58.7 million funding investment by the council. More information is available at: Videogames May Help Clear Chemo Brain Fog A study by researchers at the Stanford Cancer Institute in Palo Alto, CA, found that in breast cancer patients experiencing long-term cognitive deficits, the use of a computerized, home-based intervention or game improved participants’ executive function. Reporting in the journal Clinical Breast Cancer, Shelli Kesler, PhD, and colleagues indicated that the 12-week training led to ‘‘significant


192 improvements based on standardized measures in cognitive flexibility, verbal fluency and processing speed, with marginally significant downstream improvements in verbal memory.’’ Patients in the active intervention group self-reported improvements with planning, organizing, and monitoring tasks. More information is available at: www.clinical-breast-cancer .com/article/S1526-8209(13)00049-9/abstract or www.techno Game Playing Found to Stabilize Cognitive Function By playing a commercially available game, ‘‘Road Tour,’’ middle-aged and older adults were able to increase their useful field of vision and speed of visual processing, according to a study in PLOS One. The researchers from the University of Iowa and the Iowa City VA Health Care System randomized 681 eligible participants to four study arms within the age groups 50–64 years or 65 years or older. Three of the groups received the intervention of visual speed of processing training, either 10 hours on-site, 14 hours on-site, or 10 hours at home; the fourth group served as a control. Participants in the intervention arms were able to stabilize or improve on several cognitive function tests. The researchers estimate the benefit could protect people for 3–4 years against age-related cognitive declines. The National Institutes of Health supported the study. More information is available at: article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0061624 New Games for Pediatric Cancer Patients HopeLab has released a collection of free online games in its ‘‘Re-Mission 2’’ series. All are focused on helping children with cancer fight the disease. With ‘‘Re-Mission 2: Nanobot’s Revenge,’’ players fire a variety of treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, at a growing tumor before any cancer cells can make it to the bloodstream. ‘‘Re-Mission 2: Leukemia’’ lets players save stem-cell colonies and wipe the bone marrow of cancer cells. Other games include ‘‘Re-Mission Nano Dropbot,’’ ‘‘Re-Mission 2: Stem Cell Defender,’’ ‘‘Re-Mission 2: Feeding Frenzy,’’ and ‘‘Re-Mission 2: Special Ops,’’ a bonus game pack. More than 120 cancer patients helped developers create and test the new games. More information is available at: or http://www GameDescriptions_FINAL.pdf Cognitive Training Shown Beneficial A study by CogniFit of New York, NY, and the Center for Psychobiological Research at The Max Stern Academic College of Emek Yezreel, Israel, reported in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience that cognitive training ‘‘is effective in improving cognitive performance.’’ The researchers enrolled 122 healthy older adults in a trial to examine the separate and combined effects of cognitive training and mild aerobic training on cognitive functioning. Those participating in the cognitive training ‘‘showed significant improvement in cognitive performance on Hand-Eye Coordination, Global Visual Memory (GVM; working memory and long-term memory), Speed of Information Processing, Visual Scanning, and Naming.’’ More information is available at: Aging_Neuroscience/10.3389/fnagi.2013.00008/abstract

NEWS FROM THE FIELD Health Center Adds OmniVR for Rehabilitation The Alaris Health Center at Cedar Grove, Cedar Grove, NJ, has begun using OmniVR (Accelerated Care Plus, Reno, NV) to support mental and physical rehabilitation while making the process of recovery more fun. A physical therapist sets up a variety of exercises, games, and puzzles with which patients work. The OmniVR camera captures the patient’s movement and shows them on a television screen. The device can be used for physical rehabilitation, such as balance and wheelchair mobility, as well as improving memory and cognition. More information is available at: Grove_health_center_helps_patient_rehabilitation.html Johns Hopkins Undergrads Modify Videogame for Life-Saving Purpose Three undergraduate engineering students at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, have modified the Kinect (Microsoft, Redmond, WA) motion-sensing device from the popular videogame player into a detector for children left behind in dangerously overheated vehicles. The device uses an infrared camera and projector to sense the movements of a game player and incorporates these motions into what is happening on the video screen, the University said. They developed a proof-of-concept prototype to prevent deaths. ‘‘The students showed that they could detect even the tiniest movements associated with a child left in the backseat of a car,’’ said Eileen McDonald, a faculty member in the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, part of the Bloomberg School of Public Health. ‘‘We don’t have a perfect model yet, but we’re hoping another group will pick up where they left off and bring it closer to becoming a commercial product.’’ More information is available at: http:// ‘‘Hammer & Planks’’ Wins Award The game ‘‘Hammer & Planks,’’ from NaturalPad, Prades-leLez, France, won the Serious Games for Health Award at e-virtuoses 2013, the International Serious Games Conference organized by the Grand Hainaut Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Valenciennes, France. More than 500 people attended the annual event in early June. It included workshops, scientific presentations, and the awards, judged by an international jury. The game was originally intended to help patients who had suffered a stroke recover their balance abilities, but it can be played by anyone and on multiple platforms. More information is available at: http://seriousgamesmarket Australians Testing Computer Games Can Enhance Older Adults’ Strength Researchers from the School of Health and Human Sciences at Southern Cross University in Lismore, Australia, are investigating whether interactive computer games enhance the strength and increase the fitness of older adults. They are conducting a pilot study using a Nintendo (Kyoto, Japan) Wii games console for strength and balance exercises, such as ‘‘Table Tilt,’’ ‘‘Tightrope Walk,’’ ‘‘Penguin Slide,’’ and ‘‘Ski



Slalom.’’ Participants will exercise three times per week for 30–40 minutes. Investigator Suzanne Broadbent reported that the games ‘‘improve weight transfer, lower leg strength, balance and hand-eye coordination,’’ which can help prevent falls. More information is available at: news/media.php?item_id = 7201&action = show_item

treadmill in front of the game screen, and can compete against friends or strangers at the arcade. Up to eight people can play at once. The speed generated on the treadmill correlates with how fast the screen character moves. More information is available at:

More, Updated ‘‘Mind Games’’

Teens Lose Weight with Active Videogames

Mindware Consulting has released an update of ‘‘Mind Games,’’ a collection of games to help people with different mental skills. The app, available on the Android (Google, Mountain View, CA) platform, tracks players’ score history and graphs progress, so a quick look enables people to see a summary of their best scores, where they need work, and where they are doing great. It also includes a stress-reduction feature, slide puzzles, a quick volume adjustment widget, and vocabulary games. Gamers can schedule it to remind them when to play. More information is available at:

Exergames can prove effective in helping teens lose weight, according to a study from researchers from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA, and Georgetown University in Washington, DC, reported in the journal Obesity. The team assessed whether participating in a 20-week exergame intervention could help overweight and obese African-American teens from a public high school lose weight. Fifty-four articipants were randomly assigned to play a competitive exergame or a cooperative exergame or to a control group. Those in the active groups played the Nintendo (Kyoto, Japan) Wii ‘‘Active’’ game for 30–60 minutes during their lunch break or after school. Those in the cooperative exergame group lost significantly more weight than the control group, and they increased their self-efficacy. Both the exergame cohorts received more peer support. ‘‘In the past, light-to-moderate energy expenditure has been documented during exergame play; however, this is the first study to demonstrate weight loss among teenagers as a result,’’ said study author Amanda Staiano, PhD, of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. More information is available at: abstract

Canadians Use ‘‘Tetris’’ to Treat Lazy Eye Researchers from McGill University and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, QC, Canada, have used the puzzle videogame ‘‘Tetris’’ to treat adult amblyopia. They said the videogame trains both eyes to work together, and by doing so it increases the brain’s level of plasticity and enables it to relearn. They have tested the theory on 18 adults, half with the stronger eye patched and nine playing dichoptically. ‘‘Using head-mounted video goggles we were able to display the game dichoptically, where one eye was allowed to see only the falling objects, and the other eye was allowed to see only the ground plane objects,’’ said Robert Hess, PhD, DSc, director of McGill Vision Research. ‘‘Forcing the eyes to work together, we believed, would improve vision in the lazy eye.’’ They reported after 2 weeks, the group playing the dichoptic game showed a dramatic improvement in the vision of the weaker eye as well as in three-dimensional depth perception. More information is available at: current-biology/retrieve/pii/S0960982213000948 Mobility Games for Multiple Sclerosis Patients Researchers at Ohio State University are conducting a randomized interventional pilot study using ‘‘Dance Dance Revolution’’ as a tool to provide people with multiple sclerosis a fun way to exercise and perform cognitive training. Participants, 30–59 years of age, will complete an 8-week exercise program using ‘‘Dance Dance Revolution,’’ which requires them to move their feet to targets while matching the rhythm of a song. Researchers will assess the differences in balance, processing speed and executive control, and cognitive functioning in the intervention and control groups. More information is available at: NCT01780792?term = Video + game&recr = Open&rank = 11 Game Incorporates Running on a Treadmill ‘‘Sonic Athletics,’’ a new game from Sega (Toyko, Japan), opened at the company’s Tokyo Joypolis in Japan. Players take on the role of various characters in the game, run on a

Gamification of Health Care Discussed Ben Sawyer, owner of Digitalmill in Portland, ME, and cofounder of the Games for Health Project, presented a session about the gamification of health care at the Public Relations Society of America PRSA Health Academy Conference in May. He discussed games’ potential as a motivational tool and their ability to help people develop new healthier habits. Game playing might prove especially beneficial for disease management and prevention. More information is available at: Sessions/Pre-Con/2013PreCon or www.business2community .com/tech-gadgets/the-real-world-impact-of-serious-games0501019 Wii Helps Older Adults with Endurance and Activity Levels Researchers from Australia and New Zealand report in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity that playing Nintendo (Kyoto, Japan) Wii ‘‘Sports’’ could increase bicep curl muscular endurance, physical activity levels, and psychological quality of life among people living in residential agedcare centers. The authors suggest that participants playing the game developed a sense of empowerment and achievement. The games also offered an opportunity for socialization. More information is available at: http://journals

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