Fall 2000


Good news for the masses of Nintendo and SEGA-heads in the world…a new NASA technology employs video games to train people to change their brainwave activity and other physiological functions. The better news? The results may improve and protect a player’s mental and physical health.

Biofeedback has been used by doctors for years as a way to help control stress and tension. Earlier biofeedback methods tended to be simplistic, and monotonous. Now NASA researchers at Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, have changed that perception by combining the mind-over-matter technique with the high-tech entertainment value and hand-eye coordination of video games. 

The interactive system trains people to change their brainwave activity or other physiological functions while playing off-the-shelf video games. The video game actually responds to the activity of the player's body and brain.

The video game joystick, or other control devices, picks up signals via a signal-processing unit taking in feedback from sensors attached to the player’s head and body. The video game's joystick becomes easier to control as the player's brainwaves come closer to a calm, stress-free pattern, encouraging the player to produce these patterns or signals to succeed at the game.

According to Dr. Olafur Palsson, assistant professor of psychiatry and family medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School, and co-inventor of the technology, "Thirty years of biofeedback research has shown that by training specific brainwave changes, or reductions in other abnormal physiological signals, people can achieve a wide variety of health-enhancing outcomes. With this new technology, we have found a way to package this training in an enjoyable and inherently motivating activity."

Early tests, which will be completed this fall, signal success. The test applies the technology as a treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children with ADHD either play popular video games or receive more traditional brainwave biofeedback treatment. Both forms of treatment help the children's symptoms, but the video game treatment seems to have distinct advantages, especially the motivation factor.

David Shannon of Langley’s commercialization office reports that several companies have already applied for licenses to bring this technology to the public through training systems. "This technology could be in homes all over the country within the next two or three years," said Shannon.

Long term, this means that video games have the potential to help both children and adults with a variety of health problems, from concentration difficulties to physical stress. The question is, when kids discover that it could be good for them, will they be as interested in video games? Stay tuned…

¾LiNE Zine