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Improving patients' lives through video games

Video games, which critics say promote sedentary behavior and can glamorize violence, are often associated with their negative health effects. But a piece on Discover magazine's Crux blog offers an overview of scientific evidence suggesting that gaming could be helpful to a diverse range of patients, including people recovering from severe burns, teens battling cancer, and, according to a new findings, individuals diagnosed with dyslexia. According to the article:

...[A] relatively new branch of science is focusing on the therapeutic aspects of video games. This new generation of researchers who have grown up with video games are starting to use their unique mix of skills to look into the possibility of improving people’s lives through gaming.


A study released today finds that video games can be therapeutic in what first seems like an unlikely context: treating dyslexia. Researchers tested the reading and attentional skills of kids with dyslexia before and after playing video games over the course of nine separate 80-minute sessions. They found that action video games, specifically, left the kids able to read faster and better able to focus their attention. In fact, those 12 total hours of video games play did just as much, or more, for reading skills than demanding traditional reading therapies.

Attention and reading skills probably go hand in hand, the researchers say. “Visual attention deficits are surprisingly way more predictive of future reading disorders than are language abilities at the prereading stage,” said study author Andrea Facoetti of the University of Padua in Italy. By improving visual attention, then, games can address this root cause of dyslexia.

Previously: O’Reilly Radar Q&A looks at how games can improve health, Can playing Tetris reduce flashbacks and aid in the treatment of PTSD?, Study shows gaming may be helpful in treating teen depression, Gaming for good: Video games designed to heal and Can video games improve memory, boost brain power?
Photo by Marco Arment

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