Video Games Offer New Frontiers in Medicine

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams. Image available on Flickr

Video game consoles have captivated the minds of adults and children alike since Atari introduced Pong, a simple electronic tennis match, in 1973. Since then, gaming has spread to smartphones and tablets that eventually found themselves in classrooms. Video games became a difficult distraction to overcome, until educators started noticing how well video games held their students’ attention. Schools are now harnessing the power of video games to teach math, science, and reading. Video games have also entered the medical field and are showing promise in treating conditions that responds well to neurofeedback conditioning. A method that requires a patient to be hooked up to electrodes while playing a video game. In this way, the game can reward the patient with positive images or sounds in response to specific brainwaves.  Video games are now treating anxiety, pain, depression, ADHD, and more.

Many of these games require a physical interaction between the person playing and the game console, be it through touching a screen, tilting a tablet or typing. With the rapid pace of technology, allowing us to interact with computers in previously unthinkable ways, it was only a matter of time before even physical interaction was no longer necessary. In recent years, electroencephalography (EEG) headsets have made it possible to control a game with your brainwaves. Making video games a viable tool to teach cognitive skills — the building blocks that allow us to think, read, learn, remember, reason, and pay attention. The EEG headsets also eliminate the need for cumbersome electrodes.  

ATENTIVmynd™, located in Waltham, Massachusetts, has used this technology to create a game to treat any child who struggles with inattention. Everything we do depends on our ability to pay attention in different ways either through sight or sound. ATENTIVmynd™ Games uses a FOCUSforward™ methodology. The character only moves forward in the game if the player is paying attention and focusing on the movements of their avatar. Controlling the game in this way, sets up a reward system, which not only teaches children that paying attention has benefits, but also helps them improve their ability to focus on details. Along the way learners are challenged with tasks that teach other unique cognitive skills. The feedback happens in realtime, allowing children to boost attention levels and receive feedback from the game on those levels at the same time, so that they can make necessary changes to move up a level in the game. This feedback method is very different from similar cognitive training methods that only give feedback once a task is completed. Realtime feedback allows learners to push themselves further with full knowledge of what it will take to succeed up front.

ATENTIVmynd™ Games show promise in treating  Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a complex set of traits that if left untreated, can lead to depression and anxiety. Inattention and hyperactivity are key traits associated with ADHD in children and adults. A game that rewards for paying attention and helps sustain long periods of mental effort may be able to train patients that suffer with ADHD new coping skills. New skills learned in the game can improve outcomes at home, on school work, or on the job later in life.

As a professional writing service company that creates training manuals, white papers, and medical journal articles, we like to stay on top of the latest technology in and around the Boston area. Do you have an emerging technology you would like us to profile? Let us know on Twitter @Tra360 or Facebook.

Fighting Cancer with the PMC’s Team Kermit

I founded the Pan-Mass Challenge’s Team Kermit with seven other close friends in 2005. That year we raised $56,000. In 2011 our team had 50 riders. This year we’ve raised $268,000. In six years we’ve raised approximately $USD1.2 million, 100% of which goes to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in the Jared P. Branfman Sunflowers for Life Fund.

Team Kermit 2011
Team Kermit 2011
Valentina Rosa, TRA360 founder and CEO, at the PMC Finish 2011
Valentina Rosa, TRA360 founder and CEO, at the PMC Finish 2011

 My five greatest memories in PMC 2011 were:

  1. Seeing my friend Tym Rourke speak at the Opening Ceremonies about his six-year-old son and our Pedal Partner Declan. What a story and what an incredibly wonderful boy. Look for Tym’s presentation in my previous PMC blog post.
  2. Seeing Lance Armstrong speak from 20 feet away at the Opening Ceremonies and lining up 8 feet from him at the start. Lance is much bigger than the bike and his aura radiates that. As he said in the Opening Ceremonies, “My job is to put myself out of business.”
  3. Riding alongside Alison Soule, one of my newest friends and fellow Kermit, 10 days removed from her most recent chemo treatment for breast cancer. Riding with Chris Smith, a first-time Kermit who is legally blind. Read more about Chris on the Dedham News Transcript website. Alison and Chris are inspirations to all of us.
  4. Receiving all the great cheers for Team Kermit from the thousands of spectators lining the course. Hearing the hoots, hollers, and cheers of “Go Kermits!” “Like the frogs!” and “Great caps!” kept us flying down the road.
  5. Meeting my first two fundraising milestones: $4,200 (two-day riding commitment) and $6,400 (Heavy Hitter). And, with my fundraising total now at $7,239, I’m 90% toward my overall goal of $8,000. I’m very confident that I’m going to reach and maybe even exceed my goal!


Fighting Cancer for the PMC: 274 Miles on the Bike

This past Friday–Sunday (August 5–7) I rode in my tenth Pan-Mass Challenge, a bike ride fundraiser for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and The Jimmy Fund. 5,000 riders rode distances of 84 to 192 miles over 1 or 2 days. I rode 192 miles from Sturbridge to Provincetown, MA over 2 days. I did an extra 82 miles with other 11 teammates on Friday to the start line. Yes, I’m a bit crazy to take on these extra miles, especially on a challenging, hilly course 1 day before the main event.



Here is a video of the PMC Opening Ceremonies. See how the PMC bike riding community fights cancer.

PMC 2011 Opening Ceremonies at Sturbridge from David Hellman on Vimeo.

If you can’t hang in there for 49+ minutes, here are a couple of must-sees:

  • Jump to 15mins 15 secs to see a question-and-answer with Lance Armstrong, a first-time PMC rider you may have heard of.
  • Jump to 31mins 35 secs to see an emotional and inspiring speech by Tym Rourke, father of 6-year-old Declan Rourke. Declan is our Pedal Partner and some of the funds our PMC Team Kermit raised has gone to Declan’s treatments. If you watch Tym’s presentation and finish it with a dry eye, check your pulse.

Team Kermit Completes 2011 Pan-Mass Challenge

Team Kermit 2011
Team Kermit 2011

2011 marked my 10th tear riding in the Pan-Mass Challenge, a bike ride fundraising event for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Since 2006 I’ve been riding with Team Kermit, a team I founded with seven other riders in memory of my friend Jared Branfman who died from brain cancer at age 23 after a 2.5 year battle with cancer.

The photo on the left is of Team Kermit 2011. We are women and men, young and old, amazing bike riders and slow pedal pushers, friends, and family. Over the past six years Team Kermit has raised over $1.4M for cancer patient treatment and education at The Jimmy Fund/Dana Farber. I’m so proud for all we have accomplished.



Valentina Rosa at PMC 2011 Provincetown, MA finish line
Valentina Rosa at PMC 2011 Provincetown, MA finish line

The second photo is of me finishing in Provincetown MA after two days and 196 miles.