Doctors pronounced Ethan Myers brain dead after a car accident dealt the 9-year-old a severe brain injury in 2002. After he miraculously awoke from a nearly month-long coma, doctors declared he would never again eat on his own, walk or talk.
Yet, thanks partly to a video game system, Myers has caught up with his peers in school and even read a speech to a large group of students.
“I’m doing the exact same things as them. I’m getting buddies and stuff,” said Myers, who had relearned to walk and was reading at a second-grade level before his video game therapy began in May 2004.
“I couldn’t remember where I put stuff and now I can. I remember school stuff and people’s names,” he said in a telephone interview from his family’s home in Colorado.
More fundamentally, Myers can now fully open his right hand, which paralysis had curled closed. His brother and sister, who were in the car with him during the accident and each suffered mild brain injuries, have also shown improvement in their memory and other functions.
Ethan and his parents attribute his most recent progress to neurofeedback training on the CyberLearning Technology system, which is often used to play car racing video games.
While this form of treatment has been around for decades, incorporating video games marks a new frontier that taps young people’s fascination with animation and electronics to sweeten often frightening, lengthy and tedious medical treatments.
Video games are being used, for instance, to help sick children manage pain and anxiety during hospital stays.
A young leukemia patient inspired “Ben’s Game,” which let him fight the cancer cells invading his body. A private island called Brigadoon in Linden Lab’s “Second Life” virtual world is open only to people with Asperger’s syndrome and autism.