There are many different approaches to learning. While some people prefer a more studious method, there is no denying that it’s easier to learn while you’re having fun. Think back to your childhood. Some of your most memorable learning experiences probably didn’t feel like learning at all. This concept is known as ‘implicit learning’. Our fondness for this approach has led to an increasing interest in the use of video games in stroke rehabilitation. But what is it that differentiates these ‘serious games’ from conventional rehabilitation regarding recovery? What aspects of these ‘games’ offer the most benefit in post-stroke rehabilitation?
With these questions in mind, an international team of researchers looked at studies reporting on the effectiveness of physical rehabilitation games. They looked at 61 studies, recruiting a total of more than 1,600 patients. While 35 of the studies involved stroke patients, all of them compared serious gaming with conventional rehabilitation techniques.
Serious gaming shows benefits for stroke recovery
Overall, the researchers found that, compared with conventional rehabilitation, serious gaming promoted more significant improvements in upper limb function and movement/balance. They also found that benefit was not linked to age (the average age was 61 — not your usual video gamers!) or the length of the gaming sessions, and that benefit was greater when the player acted as part of a team. Interestingly, they also found that patients benefited from a bit of escapism. Games with fantasy features rated highly, as they allowed more space for creativity. Consequently, these led to more player engagement and better outcomes.
By finding out what works in serious gaming, developers can create more engaging scenarios that better meet the requirements of the player. As a result, it will maximize the benefit of a post-stroke rehabilitation program. So why not talk to your therapist about adding serious gaming to your treatment program. It could take you to the next level.
The lead author of this study is Diana Tăut, Department of Psychology, Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.