Service members use brain games for memory, attention issues
By: Katie Lange, DoD News, Defense Media Activity
When I hear the words “fitness center” at a rehab facility, I generally think of exercise machines, free weights, foam rollers and physical therapists. But the Brain Fitness Center at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence is definitely different.
It looks like any other office – except for the human-sized pod called the Orrb against the wall – but it is helping lots of active-duty military members with cognitive dysfunction.
Cognitive complaints are some of the most common for service members coming back from deployments. The Brain Fitness Center was developed around 2008 to help anyone with difficulty in areas such as attention, memory and thought organization.
“We wanted to design our Brain Fitness Center so it could be used by anyone, with or without a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury,” said Kate Sullivan, a speech-language pathologist and the director of the center. “We provide services to varying populations that include those with psychological health issues and oncology patients complaining of cognitive changes after cancer treatments.”
Sullivan and other researchers thought the patients, who were mostly young men, might respond well to newly available computer games for the brain.
“For this population, there is a competitive nature of wanting to score better and master something,” Sullivan said. “On top of being fun and engaging, we hope it’s also strengthening certain areas of the brain.”
The BFC offers several brain-training programs, most of which are web-based and have compatible apps for use at home. The games are part of a larger rehab process, Sullivan said. The center is still researching its programs to see which have been the most helpful for cognitive function.
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