Approximately 400,000 Americans have multiple sclerosis, a disease that attacks the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. About half of the people living with MS develop cognitive challenges, which can involve difficulty with skills like memory, concentration, organization and problem-solving.
The MS Technology Collaborative, a group made up of the National MS Society, Microsoft and Bayer HealthCare, has teamed up to launch MyBrainGames, a free suite of online cognitive games for the MS community. The games are available at the group’s website, MyMSMyWay.com.
“This is the first online game designed specifically for people with MS,” says Ellen Kampel, director of Microsoft’s Accessibility Unit. The project took about a year to bring to fruition: “We worked with a team of healthcare professionals specializing in MS and cognition, as well as members of the MS community to make it happen,” she added.
MyBrainGames includes three games: Shopping List, Word Connect and Round Up. In each, the games challenge the player’s processing speed, working memory, attention, and task-switching savvy, at various levels of playing ability. For example, in Shopping List you must jump up and collect a series of words on a list, while avoiding bumping into rocks on the ground.
The assistive technology games are also accessible for those with vision and other impairments. Users can change the text and font size, color contrast and invert the screen colors. To account for individuals with limited dexterity, minimal mouse and keyboard movement is required, with most of the game played using only two keyboard keys.
“We have seen the tremendous impact that technology can have on a person’s journey with MS,” says Dr. Nicholas LaRocca, vice president of health care delivery and policy research at the National MS Society. MyBrainGames is a “unique piece of technology that we hope will have a similar impact.”
While there are only three games to play, the point is to bring more people living with MS to the site — and stay. MyMSMyWay.com has a robust, built-in community where users can connect with others who have MS and learn about new treatments and technologies.