CHEK Upside: UVIC students assist brain injury survivors with video game therapy

CHEK Upside: UVIC students assist brain injury survivors with video game therapy
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Inside the non-profit Victoria Brain Injury Society, you’ll find patients like Alicia-Anne Ackerman.

“I slipped and fell in the shower,” said Ackerman, who suffered the brain injury over five years ago.

To this day, Ackerman still lives with symptoms including memory loss and fatigue.

She’s explored several different therapies and recently signed on for a new study that involves playing videos aimed to improve cognitive abilities.

“It lets me explore the parts of the brain that maybe hasn’t been functioning very well and then maybe waking up a bit,” said Ackerman.

“We’re essentially taking their brain to the gym,” said Taylor Snowden-Richardson, a neuroscience Ph.D. student at the University of Victoria. “The overall purpose of this project is to use this really cool program we have called NeuroTracker to see if we can improve cognitive functions like memory and attention and other executive functions.”

Patients like Jim Williams, who suffered a concussion while curling, come in and take a pre-game survey assessment. Then, equipped with 3D glasses, the patient tries to track four out of eight balls as they bump into each other. The longer you go, the harder the game gets.

“At the end, you’re a little tired after the three NeuroTrackers, from watching the balls bounce all over the place that’s for sure,” said Williams.

A post-game survey is then conducted and data is gathered for the study.

The NeuroTracker program has been used by professional athletes and Navy Seals, but Snowden-Richardson says using NeuroTracker in this context could be a gamechanger for brain injury survivors.

“We have a little bit of evidence working with people with histories of concussion, but this is our first time working with people who have moderate to severe brain injuries,” said Snowden-Richardson, who works with a team of undergraduate students.

With over 166,000 Canadians suffering brain injuries each year, the ambitious UVIC students are determined to make a difference.

“There’s just not a lot of resources for people that have traumatic brain injuries and I want to be part of the solution,” said Snowden-Richardson. “I want to help this group.”

For anyone with a brain injury who would like more information on the study, email [email protected].

Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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