HopeLab and Stanford University researchers have released new data showing that the video game Re-Mission can help activate parts of the brain involved in positive motivation. Re-Mission is a video game designed for cancer patients about killing cancer in the body. Researchers say that the game affects reward-related activation in the brain, which represents attitudes and emotions that can help boost a patient’s "adherence to prescribed chemotherapy and antibiotic treatments." The study shows how these effects might have occurred, and how active participation in gameplay events can improve the brain's positive motivation abilities. Researchers note that seeing and hearing the same information without active participation in gameplay had no impact on activity on positive motivation.
The study compared the brain scans of 57 people who were randomly selected to play Re-Mission or to passively watch the same recorded game play (similar to watching a movie, with the exact same information, but no direct participation in the gameplay events). Results of functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) showed that neural circuits related to reward activated strongly while players were actively playing Re-Mission, but not when they were resting, or when other players passively observed the same gameplay events.
"Identifying a direct connection between the stimulation of neural circuits and game play is a key step in unlocking the potential for game-based tools to inspire positive behavior and improve health," said Brian Knutson, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Stanford University and co-author of the article.
"Active involvement in video game play sparks positive motivation in a way that watching and hearing information does not," said Steve Cole, Ph.D., Vice President of Research and Development at HopeLab, professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and co-author of the article. "All participants in the study received the same information. It was the active participation in gameplay that made the big difference in motivation. This study helps refine our 'recipe for success' in harnessing the power of play in the service of health."
In Re-Mission, players pilot a microscopic robot named Roxxi as she travels through the bodies of fictional cancer patients, killing cancer cells and battling the side-effects of cancer and cancer treatments. Re-Mission was created by HopeLab specifically for adolescents and young adults with cancer. You can learn more about the organization’s work at www.hopelab.org.
According to Dr. Cole, HopeLab is now applying data from this research to the development of a new generation of Re-Mission video games for young cancer patients.