Contributed by Nora Stasio
TBI stands for Traumatic Brain Injury. Those who’ve experienced TBI can tell you, the combination of physical and emotional pain it brings is nothing short of traumatic. When the proper functioning of the brain is compromised, everyday tasks can suddenly become a chore. Once familiar faces may seem strange and seemingly simple questions can leave the patient baffled.
However, the brain is an amazing organ. Its ability to rebuild itself if damaged has been proven time and again. Recently, experts have been prescribing playing games as a form of therapy to aid brain injury recovery. There are some games that have been shown to improve overall cognitive function, even in healthy uninjured individuals. If you’re interested in these kinds of game, here are 5 suggestions that come highly recommended for brain injury recovery.
What is the nature of the injury? Does the affected person have trouble remembering the names of numbers or letters, or matching up colors?
Most of us have played the organizational game Sudoku, but did you know there are multiple forms of the game? There’s Number Sudoku, Color Sudoku, even Alphabet Sudoku. Sudoku can be played in books or from the local newspaper, but there are also a countless number of free apps for smart devices which feature the game. An injured person may find that one version of the game is too hard for them, but another feels more comfortable. The patient can take some time out of everyday to work on whichever one is easiest for them. Then after a few weeks, the patient can start to introduce the other versions and see how well they do. Once they’re comfortable with one format, playing another version that ventures into a weak area for them won’t seem so daunting.
2.) Card Games
Older individuals who have suffered brain injuries may be more accustomed to playing card games than electronic-based games. Classic games like Memory, Go Fish, Solitaire, and War have been helpful in their brain injury recovery. They require thought and strategy, but not so challenging to become frustrating. If the patient had enjoyed playing such games before their injury, it should feel natural for them to continue even if the game is suddenly more difficult for them than it was before. Continual play can boost memory skills, as well associative and numerical comprehension, depending on the game. With the exception of Solitaire, most of these are games that your patient will need you to play with them, which does create a fun opportunity for bonding!
With Lumosity, you let the app know what you’re looking to improve as far as your or the patient’s cognition. The categories are memory, attention, speed of processing, problem solving, and flexibility. Based on the information you provide, the app presents you with a selection of “brain training” games designed to boost thinking power. There have been a number of studies which have shown that this app did in fact improve cognitive function in patients working on their brain injury recovery. You can download the app on a smart device or on a personal computer. There’s a free version, but if you pay for a subscription you’ll have access to a wider selection of games.
Tactus Therapy Solutions has been developing apps specifically designed to aid in TBI recovery since 2011. Each one of their apps focuses on a specific area of cognition that may need improvement for certain patients going through brain injury recovery. Most of them revolve around language skills. If you’re interested, you can start out by downloading Language TherAppy Lite in the App store. This free trial version will provide you with a sample of some of the games available in the full version, which must be purchased. There are 4 categories of games – Reading, Writing, Comprehension, and Naming. The full versions are a bit expensive, but if the trial seems to be just what you were looking for then it may be worth the price.
In one game, you are asked to recall the name of a pictured item with hints you can click on if you’re struggling. In another game, you are asked to complete a common phrase by clicking on the correct word. In another, you listen to a sound clip then are prompted to spell the word correctly. It may seem basic, but for someone with TBI, these games could prove just the sort of challenge they need to improve brain function.
Many of us have played this classic 1980’s electronic puzzle game once or twice. I’ve recently read a lot of stories about people who’ve played Tetris after a brain injury and found it very satisfying. Many of them still make a habit of playing even though they’ve since recovered. Studies have shown that a daily round of Tetris is quite healthy for the brain.
There is something very therapeutic about lining up all those little pieces until they create a perfectly smooth, flat line, and then evaporate. If you want to get technical, it has been shown to increase the thickness of the cerebral cortex of its players which can lead to more efficient brain activity. It’s a wonderful game that engages your visuo-spatial processing, critical thinking, and problem solving abilities, ultimately making you smarter. It’s been my favorite go-to anti-boredom game for many years. You can download the app for free or go to Free Tetris to play right now!
For more apps, tools, and aids for TBI, check out Brain Injury Peer Visitor.