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Apps Beyond Entertainment

If you’ve had an appointment recently, you have experienced some of the few apps I am using as a tool. And there are also a couple you may catch me playing from time to time.

Angry Birds
Ok, so it is the current most popular app game, and it is insanely addictive. The game is now available for both Apple and Android devices. Not only is the game fun and quick, it uses principles of physics in interesting ways, and encourages strategy development.

The reason I like to use this game as a tool is the visual tracking. It requires left to right movement similar to that used in reading and writing. When kids are playing the game we are able to observe instability in their bodies that directly relates to reading. We stabilize the motor patterns and it allows visual function to improve in efficiency.

Cut the Rope
The objective is to feed the little critter candy. Although the game is Christmas candy themed, it also employs use of physics principles. You are able to easily repeat the levels to develop strategies for getting more points.

The reason I like to use the game is the different directions of finger movement and ocular-motor skills mimic real-world mechanical tasks. We are able to observe changes in body position and posture that accompany the hand motions. It is amazing to see how contorted the kids end up as some of them play this game. As we stabilize the involved body movements, an immediate change in game playing position is observed. It is very cool to see the fast changes.

A completely different type of game, Rollercoaster requires tilting and shifting of the iPhone/iTouch to get points. During the rollercoaster ride the rider reaches for various items which add or subtract from game points. There are processing speed and visual-spatial processing which come into play.
Again, we like this game because we can observe a different set of real-time visual motor skills and can stabilize the associated body movements. This enables more efficient visual processing.

Strong Mind Puzzles
This is a brain game. It starts off simple and gets more complex as you progress through the levels. There are very specific brain connections created and reinforced through the design of the puzzles. My brilliant colleague, Donalee Markus, PhD, developed this app which targets Pre-frontal Cortex function (tightly related to executive function) and the Visual Cortex used in visual processing and spatial orientation. In addition a number of whole brain functions are developed and reinforced including: working memory, decision-making, critical thinking, reflexive thinking, and mental flexibility.

We like it because it makes our thinking easier! There are thousands of combinations to play!

Bejeweled has been around as a favorite PC game and is now available as a mobile app. It is great for developing scanning for patterns in both horizontal and vertical alignments. As familiarity increases, there is strategy and working memory that come into play, similar to chess. You can think ahead several moves to optimize points.

I like it since it is only a little bit addictive, and the games go quickly. My personal way to spend some time when waiting for my kids at appointments when I’m not doing brain puzzles.