Brain Games for People with TBI: Pros and Cons

A lot of the brain games that are on the website, they can't hurt. They're fun to play, they do stimulate the brain. Many of them are not scientifically based. They're kind of intuitively based and developed by people who develop computer games. Again, they don't hurt; they stimulate the brain. If you're looking for something that's going to be more therapeutic, you need to do some research to find out what the science and the evidence is behind the brain games, and I would also suggest that you do that in conjunction with a cognitive rehabilitation specialist because the particular skills that your daughter may need to work on are going to be very specific. And obviously, games that are out there for the general public on the Web are fairly general. They improve memory. But if you're not sure exactly why your daughter is having trouble with memory, then the games may not be addressing specifically what her issues are. They do have a role and a purpose because, as I said, they do keep your brain moving, they help you work on some tasks in between. I would not do it instead of cognitive rehabilitation; I would do it in conjunction with a cognitive rehabilitation therapist. And I would also be very careful to not let her use computer-based cognitive games as a substitute for interacting with the world, engaging in other rehab activities, social activities, getting back involved. It becomes very easy, especially for teenagers, to get sucked into the Internet world, so I certainly wouldn't allow her to do that for hours on end. You still want to have her engage in other activities and engage in the world and socialize with people and learn new skills and all that kind of thing. So as a piece of the total picture, they can't hurt. Some of them may help. The research is kind of equivocal on how helpful they are therapeutically, but it certainly is something that keeps people's interest and does stimulate the brain and does keep the cells moving in the absence of anything else.

Computer brain games can be fun and stimulate the brain, but should be used in conjunction with cognitive rehab -- and interacting with people and the world.

Celeste Campbell

Dr. Celeste Campbell is a neuropsychologist in the Polytrauma Program at the Washington, DC Veterans Administration Medical Center. She has a long history of providing cognitive psychotherapy and developing residential behavioral management programs for children and adults.

Posted on BrainLine February 7, 2011

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Brian King, BrainLine.

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