Friday, July 13, 2012

iPad/iPhone app: Hemispheres

Hemispheres App
Hemispheres app in iTunes (regularly $0.99, sometimes free)

What it is: Solve simple math problems while mixing two colors together. On their own, each of these tasks is simple, but carrying them out at the same time is quite a bit less simple, as your brain must switch between the two problems, simultaneously engaging the logical/math and creative hemispheres. Talk about split attention task! This task is timed, which ups the difficulty level.

How we can use it in Tx: There is no easy or relaxed level, so expect pts to only be able to get through the first couple of problems (the game ends with the third error on either side; running out of time counts as an error as well). But even a couple of rounds of this game can be useful, and it's definitely something to use with higher functioning pts.

Goals we can target with this app: Attention, focus, math, and to a certain extent visual field neglect since the problems presented by the app are side-by-side, so attention to each side is needed. It is definitely a worthy brain-training tool as well.

Some specific examples: Since this app only has one level and the tasks are timed, there is not really a way to make the task simpler. Therefore, I would be weary of giving it to pts working on the very simple or basic skills. I would target pts with more advanced goals.

1. The most obvious use is for a split-attention task for higher functioning individuals with mild executive function deficits. Set as goal trying to get through as many of the problems as possible (i.e., get the highest possible score).

2. For field neglect goals, instruct the pt to focus on the weaker side's problem (e.g., for left neglect have them only solve the left-sided problem, ignoring the one on right). This will make for a short round, as concentrating only on one side will ensure the other side will run out of time and add to the count of errors, ending the round after 3. But solving 3 problems on the weak side with competing stimulus from the strong side is actually not a bad task, especially since the game can be restarted as many times as wanted (so you can ask to solve the 3 problems at a time, x5 for the entire activity).

3. Brain-training: for the regular (not rehab-patient) population, switching between the hemisphere-heavy tasks makes for a great exercise of multitasking, prioritizing, attention and focus skills.

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