Beeps, Blips, and a New Class of Medicine: Video Games

Bret S. Stetka, MD


April 22, 2016

In This Article

Finally, the Grateful Dead?

Medscape: Tell us about your pursuits beyond just video game therapy.

Dr. Gazzaley: Another game that we've now completed is called "Rhythmicity," which was inspired by my friendship and working relationship with Mickey Hart, the drummer from the Grateful Dead. Rob Garza from the band Thievery Corporation is also involved.

Our hypothesis here is that if you engage in a rhythmic challenge, such that you are constantly pushed with rhythmic challenges across multiple domains, you become more rhythmic over time. In doing so, we think it will improve people's timing and anticipation abilities, as well as other aspects of cognition, like attention. So just like with our other games, here we're assessing and trying to validate a tool to improve cognition in healthy adults. And then, of course, we hope our games will have many potential clinical applications for the wide-ranging populations with neurologic and psychiatric conditions that involve deficits in these areas.

Medscape: As a Dead fan myself, I have to ask how you and Mickey Hart came together.

Dr Gazzaley: Mickey and I were introduced around 4 years ago when we were giving a talk together for the AARP at their annual meeting. Mickey has had a longstanding interest in rhythm as being not just an entertainment tool but also potentially therapeutic. He's presented to Congress back in the nineties on this topic. And in his grandmother, who had Alzheimer disease, he felt that he saw evidence of activation in her when he would play the drums in front of her. And so he's been inspired by it and feels that the field of music therapy has not advanced as far as it could.

That meeting was very fortuitous; it became more than just us giving a lecture together. It inspired the creation of a new technology called "the glass brain," which allowed me to project Mickey's brain rhythm live on stage. But really, in a very systematic way, I'm hoping to show whether or not adaptive rhythmic training can benefit cognition.

Medscape: Last question: Do you play video games for fun?

Dr. Gazzaley: I do. And I have since I was a little kid. Now it's sort of become my job!

Editor's Note: Dr Gazzaley is a patent holder, cofounder, shareholder, Board of Directors member, and chair of Science Advisory Board for Akili Interactive Labs.

Follow Bret Stetka on Twitter: @BretStetka
And for more Neurology news: @MedscapeNeuro


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