Can older Vets with TBIs benefit from mobile game apps?


Older Veterans taking part in a VA study on mobile game apps for TBI are playing the games on an iPad for about 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week. (Photo for illustrative purposes only. ©iStock/shapecharge)

This article originally appeared in VA Research Currents.

These Veterans aren’t playing video games to shoot down asteroids, take part in World War II battles, or follow criminals and their efforts to commit heists.

They are, however, striving to improve their mental sharpness.

That’s what Dr. Allison Kaup, a neuropsychologist at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, has in mind. She’s leading a pilot study on whether two types of video-game-like apps—a multitasking game and a word-puzzle game—can help improve cognitive health in older Veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI). The games are considered investigational therapeutic software.

The study is called the “Brain Aging in Veterans (BRAVE) Training” program. It involves Vets ages 60 to 85 who have a history of repetitive mild TBI, also known as a concussion, or at least one moderate TBI. The Veterans in the study have disclosed cognitive complaints, such as trouble concentrating, getting organized, and remembering things they need to do.

Evidence suggests that involvement in mentally stimulating activities like crossword puzzles and reading may help keep the brain healthy as people age. But whether computer games are the best way to accomplish this is unclear, Kaup says.

“Some studies of ‘brain games’ have shown promising effects, but others haven’t,” says Kaup, who is also an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). “A common finding in past studies that have tested such games is that people may get better at playing the game itself. But that may not necessarily translate into improvements in other cognitive skills or to meaningful benefits in everyday life. We need more research to understand this and to inform whether there may be a type of game that is most likely to help.”

To read the full article, click here to visit VA Research Currents.


Michael Richman

Mike Richman is a writer and editor in VA’s Office of Research and Development. He joined VA in 2016. He previously worked at the Voice of America, one of the U.S.-funded broadcast agencies.


  1. Amanda Chester    

    It’s sad that doctors are realizing this now so late. But it can and is promising. Just a little more harder for older veterans but easier for younger veterans. Myself have TBI I am 36 now and the games help alot but the Va still isn’t onboard with adding additional help to my recovery. I seem great after play a few mind games puzzles. But if I stop for a few days I’m all off and always dizzy and lost and out of energy… Unable to remember what I was or wanted to do the best day. I have my moments but I really feel the games have help way more that just speach therapy. Which this is the only kind of care I have gotten for TBI. And I wasn’t able to get it longer only for a few months 3-6. Which to me isn’t long enough.

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