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‘Medical Video Games’ Provide Great Training for Healthcare Professionals

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DENA WHITE is a freelance writer and covers topics such as nurse assistant and medical careers, health care topics, and more.

Just a quick search on the Internet and you can see some great screenshots from the video game Zero Hour. Zero Hour is a fantastic video game that has you playing as an EMT who must respond to catastrophes such as a biological weapons attack in a major US city. You have to treat and diagnose panic-stricken patients as well as manage supplies, which are disorganized and unpredictable.

The United States Department of Homeland Security created this game in some measure as a way of training responders for emergencies in real life situations. This is the perfect example of interactive virtual reality modernizing the way professionals are taught and trained.

The days when video games were seen as nothing more than tools to promote passive learning and aggressive behavior are fading fast. Video games with real world learning applications are exploding on the scene and leaving critics around the globe in a state of astonishment.

A New Way To Learn

Innovative education using specially designed or off-the-shelf video games are sweeping the fields of healthcare, education, business and government. The primary focus is on healthcare partially due to the fact that the payoffs are immediate. When it comes to meeting health care goals, many have found that one of the most cost-effective methods for training healthcare professionals is video games that simulate real-life events.

The most popular games include those based on biofeedback that teach the players how to lower biological stress signs as well as games that teach healthcare professionals how to manage individuals who suffer from various phobias, asthma, heart disease and diabetes. Other games focus on simulated exercises. One video game connects to a bicycle and allows players to race through the streets of the big cities.

Educating With Games

The educational theory that is emerging around video games comes from research indicating that a new kind of learning called information literacy has spawned from the Internet. This is different from traditional learning through reading books and attending lectures. This is a more interactive way to learn using computers.

Experts claim that video games have several benefits that aid learning:

  • Video games stimulate prior education. Players have to use information that they learned previously in order to advance to the higher levels of the game.
  • Players receive immediate feedback by way of scoring as well as auditory and visual stimulus that lets players modify learning techniques.

  • Transfer of skills from video games to reality is likely to occur.

  • Motivation to learn about new tasks and ideas are higher for most when they play video games.

Video games are often used as a last resort when other forms of therapy fail in the treatment of hyperactive children who need help focusing their attention. Research is taking place to determine how such games work and the ways that they can be used to complement other therapies. In addition, experts are studying ways for video games to aid in reaching healthcare goals as a less expensive alternative to traditional, more expensive treatments. The effect of video games on the healthcare industry is an area that researchers have just begun to explore.

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Buy a video game console for your grandparents

video gamesThe research paper which will appear this month in the journal Psychology & Aging suggest you should buy your grandparents a video game console, or a PC loaded with games.

This study found that adults in their 60s and 70s can improve a number of cognitive functions by playing a strategic video games. “When you train somebody on a task they tend to improve in that task, whatever it is, but it usually doesn’t transfer much beyond that skill or beyond the particular situation in which they learned it,” he said. “And there are virtually no studies that examine whether there’s any transfer outside the lab to things people care about.”

After testing several video games, the researchers selected “Rise of Nations,” which gives gamers points for building cities and “wonders,” feeding and employing their people, maintaining an adequate military and expanding their territory.

The study included 40 older adults, half of whom received 23.5 hours of training in Rise of Nations. The others, a comparison group, received no training in the game.

Both groups were assessed before, during and after the video game training on a variety of tests designed to measure executive control functions. The tests included measures of their ability to switch between tasks, their short-term visual memory, their reasoning skills and their working memory, which is the ability to hold two or more pieces of information in memory and use the information as needed.

There were also tests of the subjects’ verbal recall, their ability to inhibit certain responses and their ability to identify an object that had been rotated to a greater or lesser degree from its original position.

The researchers found that training on the video game did improve the participants’ performance on a number of these tests. As a group, the gamers became significantly better – and faster – at switching between tasks as compared to the comparison group. Their working memory, as reflected in the tests, was also significantly improved. Their reasoning ability was enhanced. To a lesser extent, their short-term memory of visual cues was better than that of their peers, as was their ability to identify rotated objects.

The video game training had no effect on their ability to recall a list of words in order, their enumeration ability or their ability to inhibit certain responses, however.

There was a correlation between their performance on the game and their improvement on certain cognitive tests, Kramer said.

Those who did well in the game also improved the most on switching between tasks. They also tended to do better on tests of working memory.

“In medical terminology, these would be dose-response effects,” Kramer said. “The more drug – or in this case the more training on the video game – the more benefit.”

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