Tuesday, May 15, 2012

iPad/iPhone app: Match Panic

Match Panic app
Match Panic app in iTunes (was free for a while, now $1.99)

What it is: It is a matching game, where various tiles queue up in the middle of the screen, and you tap the right or the left to match them. Each level starts with just two tile images (see screen image #1), and every two levels or so one more is added at some point in the level (see screen image #2). It is timed, so if you don't finish a level in 30 seconds, you get a score but you don't move up to the next level (that is the only consequence). If a tile is matched to the wrong side, it turns into a sad face for a second (and costs a second of your allotted time).

Screen image #1
There's powerups too, which may add or reduce complexity of the task as they may affect the queue, e.g., by turning all visible tiles to the same shape, or "blowing up" the next few tiles in the queue, reducing the number of total tiles to be matched for that level. Powerups are a reward for a high scoring round, so a slow player isn't going to encounter this complication often. Don't let the "panic" in the app's name fool you: it's only panicky if you are gung ho about moving up levels and matching quickly. If you're playing the game in a more casual manner, there's nothing in particular that rushes you (other than the fact that the timer may run out before the level is finished, but if your goal is to play one level, no big).

Screen image #2
How we can use it in Tx: Pretty much assume you will only use the first 1-4 levels of this game, although there's nothing specific you have to do to select this. Just keep the goals simple. Turn off the sound so there's no "countdown" sound at the end of a level, and trust me, the music is super annoying anyway. It is designed to make the game feel more urgent (gives it that "panicky" flare) so it's best avoided.

This type of visual matching to right/left is a fairly good exercise for lateral neglect issues. This task is very similar to some divided attention activities that involve canceling a specific word or letter from a pageful of words/letters. Following directions is built-in, and memory plays a role as matching is easiest if one remembers the tiles on each side instead of having to compare each tile. As the number of tile shapes increases, so does the complexity of each of these tasks, including memory.

Goals we can target in Tx with this app: Following directions, sequencing, sorting, focus/attention, divided attention, scanning, visual neglect, and of course memory. This is also a great app for brain-training for the general population.

Some specific examples: Although this is a simple one-dimensional activity, I think it can be used in a variety of ways for different fxn levels and goals. Here are some examples.

1. For a slow, focused approach, possibly for a lower-fxn pt, prioritize accuracy of matching rather than total tiles matched, and ask the pt to take their time but send the fewest possible tiles to the wrong side. Let the progress be as slow as it needs to be, and set as goal for the task a limited number of tiles (10 or 20, for example). Have the pt count out each tile that is matched, and keep track of how many were initially matched incorrectly (then you can calculate % accuracy easily).

2. For a more advanced pt you can prioritize overall completion: Don't count how many were matched incorrectly (although that will play a role as each incorrect match reduces the level's time) and ask the pt to go through as much of the queue as possible in the allotted time. Calculate accuracy by points scored (since it's difficult to calculate percent of queue completed--you only see a piece of the queue at a time with no hint as to how much of it is still to come; if they ever add a % completed counter to this game it would be even better for Tx).

3. For visual neglect goals prioritize the neglected side, and ask the pt to say out loud the tile on that side each time it is encountered. So for example, focusing on the left side of the level in Screen image #1, each time a cactus is encountered have the pt say "cactus" before touching the left side. That way, not only is matching required on the weaker side, but it's also emphasized verbally.

4. Brain-training: This app is also great for normally (or close to normally) functioning individuals who want to get some cognitive training. This kind of thing is now popular with sites such as Lumosity, with more popping up. Everyone wants a piece of this neuroplasticity performance training. And if you feel the need for brain training, an app like this matching one will certainly do the trick as an attention-enhancing activity much like those offered on the paid "brain training" sites.

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