Gamification in Physical Therapy: More Than Using Games


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Abstract

The implementation of computer games in physical therapy is motivated by characteristics such as attractiveness, motivation, and engagement, but these do not guarantee the intended therapeutic effect of the interventions. Yet, these characteristics are important variables in physical therapy interventions because they involve reward-related dopaminergic systems in the brain that are known to facilitate learning through long-term potentiation of neural connections. In this perspective we propose a way to apply game design approaches to therapy development by “designing” therapy sessions in such a way as to trigger physical and cognitive behavioral patterns required for treatment and neurological recovery. We also advocate that improving game knowledge among therapists and improving communication between therapists and game designers may lead to a novel avenue in designing applied games with specific therapeutic input, thereby making gamification in therapy a realistic and promising future that may optimize clinical practice.

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