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Empowering young cancer patients through video games

Beyond providing a much needed escape for children battling cancer, video games can also be used to empower and educate them during chemotherapy and other therapies. As explained in a recent post on Observations, a team of medical researchers and software programmers at HopeLab created a collection of free, online games to help kids understand what's happening inside their bodies during treatment, cope with unpleasant side effects and reinvigorate them so they have the strength to fight the disease.

HopeLab says that by playing the games, called Remission and Remission 2, pediatric cancer patients are more likely to adhere to their medication schedule, and the nonprofit recently partnered with Stanford researchers to study this potential benefit. Larry Greenemeier writes:

In the most recent study, HopeLab worked with Stanford University associate professor of psychology and neuroscience Brian Knutson on a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study analyzing brain regions activated when people play the original Re-Mission. The paper, published in the March 2012 PLoS ONE, compared brain scans in 57 cancer-free undergraduates who were randomly assigned to actively play Re-Mission or passively watch the game. Re-Mission players experienced more activity in neural circuits associated with incentive motivation when compared to those who merely observed game play. Such reward-related activation could shift attitudes and emotions and boost players’ adherence to prescribed chemotherapy and antibiotic treatments to fight infection, the researchers said, although they acknowledge that further tests are needed on actual cancer patients before they can read too much into the results.

The above video describes the game and offers firsthand experiences from patients.

Previously: Improving patients’ lives through video games and Collaborative project creates a virtual world for cancer patients

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