VR games for injured brains
By Russell Nichols — Comstock’s Magazine / December 5, 2018
Anybody who says video games are bad for your health hasn’t met Dr. Tony Simon.
He’s a cognitive neuroscientist and cofounder of Cognivive, a Davis-based therapeutics company. His startup develops “digital therapeutics,” i.e. treatments in the form of virtual reality games to reduce cognitive and motor impairments in brain injury patients and children with developmental disorders.
Built on his research and others, the concept suggests that brain injury and some developmental disorders cause information about space and time to get lost in translation from the outside world to the brain.
“This is rather like having a low-resolution digital camera image compared to a high resolution image of the same scene,” says Simon, associate director of behavioral sciences at the UC Davis MIND Institute.
As a result, it becomes harder for injured patients to estimate distance and speed that might control movements, such as picking up and drinking from a cup. But Simon says his customized action video games can help improve the function of affected brain systems. Designed to have the patient generate specific movements, these treatment games tell patients where to look and how to move their hands and arms. The feedback gradually “tunes” the brain, Simon says, which makes the hand/eye coordination better and more accurate. The science, he adds, is what differentiates his games from other apps in the market …