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Gaming your way to better health

Program participant and researcher sit in front of computer

The BrainGamers Club helps participants with brain disorders draw on hidden skill sets to learn new behaviours

An innovative research project using video games and physical activity continues to demonstrate that children with brain disorders are more able to learn new behaviours than previously thought.

The “Strength-Based Interventions for FASD” project, led by University of the Fraser Valley kinesiology professor Chris Bertram and jointly supported by the NeuroDevNet and GRAND Networks of Centres of Excellence, is a unique intervention program that focuses on enhancing participants’ established abilities rather than trying to overcome their weaknesses.

Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) tend to have good motor skills and an aptitude for working with computer technologies. So Dr. Bertram and his colleagues designed programs such as the FAST Club and BrainGamers Club to build on those strengths.

Chris Bertram

Chris Bertram

As a result, participants experience a positive, successful environment conducive to learning rather than one where they must deal with failure. The research also seeks to take advantage of the brain’s natural tendency to fix itself – a characteristic that has been the focus of much research in recent years for people who have had strokes or other neurological conditions. Basically, the idea is to re-wire damaged portions of the brain to behave differently, with the expectation that improved function in one area will spill over to other areas.

"The idea is that we use games as a way of getting at a hidden skill set, and do so in ways that are fun, challenging and engaging,” notes Dr. Bertram. “It’s sort of invisible therapy, or 'stealth health.' Hopefully we can make the lives of these children and their families better in the long run."

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