Video Game May Help Young Patients Beat Cancer

Submitted by Carlos Garcia

Researchers have looked at video games for years now trying to find the effects they have on the brain.  A recent study by PLoS ONE, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, suggests behaviorally targeted video-game intervention can enhance adherence to prescribed oral medication regimens in children, adolescents, and young adults who have cancer.

HopeLab and Stanford University researchers recently announced new data showing that Re-Mission™, a video game designed by the non-profit organization HopeLab, shows benefits in positively altering players’ attitudes and behavior.  This is the first large-scale, randomized, intervention trial, pharmaceutical or behavioral, conducted with a study population composed exclusively of children, adolescents, and young adults with cancer. The intervention focuses on treatment adherence, a pervasive problem in this age group in general.

About the Re-Mission™ Video Game

Re-Mission is a video game created by HopeLab. In it you play a nanobot named Roxxi as she battles bacterial infections, and managing side effects associated with cancer and cancer treatment.  HopeLab has distributed more than 185,000 free copies of Re-Mission in 81 countries worldwide since its release in April 2006. Re-Mission is available to download or order online at Re-Mission is rated T (Teen) by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.

The research looks into the why and how Re-Mission is so effective. What the new study has found is that the act of playing, works with areas of the brain responsible for motivation in a way that viewing or reading does not. HopeLab VP for Research and Development Steve Cole had this to say:  “Playing Re-Mission definitely activated brain circuits involved in positive motivation and arousal.  However, one of the most interesting things we discovered was that gameplay also activated a small region of the brain known as the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory.  People who showed the strongest activation in the hippocampus also showed more positive cancer-related attitudes – a major target of Re-Mission – when measured immediately after gameplay and again during a surprise one-month follow-up assessment.  That suggests that Re-Mission’s impact on out-of-game outcomes such chemotherapy adherence might potentially be related to the effects of in-game experiences on cancer-related attitudes and their storage in long-term memory.”

So what does all this mean, adherence is a significant problem when managing chronic illness and video game based interventions may constitute one component of a broader integrative approach to health care that can have a positive impact on health behavior in young people with chronic illness.

Re-Mission Official Site
Press release