A Victory for EF Exergames

19 Sep 2015


Doing a PhD within a niche, interdisciplinary field can be filled with both euphoric highs and confusing lows. Am I doing something so ground-breaking that it will make simultaneous waves within several fields? Or is my work so niche it will fail to even register a ripple on any of its founding disciplines? As a result, hearing of success within your niche can help calm these choppy waters.

In a promising victory for executive function based exergames. A study conducted by The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston has found games used for exercising can improve physical and mental fitness in children with autism spectrum disorders. The researchers, Claudia Hilton, Tim Reistetter, and Diane Collins, conducted a pilot study of 30 sessions using the Makoto arena exergame for 2 minute games with 17 autistic children. The researchers believe that exergames have the potential to serve as a valuable addition to therapies for children with autism spectrum disorders who have motor and executive function impairments. Claudia Hilton said that, “the exertion of participating in this type of game helps to improve the neural connections in the brains of these children”. The study saw increases in performance across many areas of executive function, but in particular working memory and motor ability. The team plan to evaluate the game in a further study with bigger participant numbers soon.

The findings of this study are certainly promising, but what does it mean for BrainQuest? Positively, it adds to an increasing body research that recommends using exergames for improving executive abilities, due to their ability to motivate individuals who may find it unappealing or difficult to participate in more traditional activities.

So must we now open the floodgates and embrace a tsunami of executive function exergaming? Well with the resurgence of mainstream ‘brain’ training games and the realization that ‘learning how to learn’ skills may be just as important for academic and life success as assimilating information itself, you’d forgive me for keeping my fingers crossed that BrainQuest may be able to ride the building crest of popularity and academic successes. However, more research must be done in order to truly understand the transferal of cognitive training to real world outcomes and who they best serve. To be honest, with BrainQuest, I’d settle for a small splash!



By Stuart Gray