Designing and Evaluating Brain Powered Games for Cognitive Training and Rehabilitation in At-Risk African Children

June 23, 2015

Authors: B Giordani, B Novak, A Sikorskii, P Bangirana, N Nakasujja, B M Winn, M J Boivin

Journal: Global Mental Health

DOI: 10.1017/gmh.2015.5

Year Published: 2015


Valid, reliable, accessible, and cost-effective computer-training approaches can be important components in scaling up educational support across resource-poor settings, such as sub-Saharan Africa. The goal of the current study was to develop a computer-based training platform, the Michigan State University Games for Entertainment and Learning laboratory’s Brain Powered Games (BPG) package that would be suitable for use with at-risk children within a rural Ugandan context and then complete an initial field trial of that package.


After game development was completed with the use of local stimuli and sounds to match the context of the games as closely as possible to the rural Ugandan setting, an initial field study was completed with 33 children (mean age = 8.55 ± 2.29 years, range 6-12 years of age) with HIV in rural Uganda. The Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA), CogState computer battery, and the Non-Verbal Index from the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children, 2nd edition (KABC-II) were chosen as the outcome measures for pre- and post-intervention testing. The children received approximately 45 min of BPG training several days per week for 2 months (24 sessions).


Although some improvements in test scores were evident prior to BPG training, following training, children demonstrated clinically significant changes (significant repeated-measures outcomes with moderate to large effect sizes) on specific TOVA and CogState measures reflecting processing speed, attention, visual-motor coordination, maze learning, and problem solving.


Results provide preliminary support for the acceptability, feasibility, and neurocognitive benefit of BPG and its utility as a model platform for computerized cognitive training in cross-cultural low-resource settings.

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