An Intendu user doing physical rehab with a video game. An Intendu user doing physical rehab with a video game. An Intendu user works on her balance with help from a video game. (Photo: Facebook)

Why video games are the new brain rehab

A startup is making brain injury rehabilitation more fun and less expensive.

Many times after a brain injury, patients need to go through rehab, where they retrain their brains to think properly. Physical rehab of any kind is annoying (speaking from experience here) and expensive (it was like I was paying two rents: one for my apartment, and one for the clinic).

That's why a lot of brain injury patients don't go through rehab. As a result, they end up recovering only partially, or even getting worse. But that may be about to change. A startup's video-game-based system allows brain injury patients to go through rehab without leaving their homes.

Dr. Son Preminger, an Israeli entrepreneur with degrees from Harvard University in Massachusetts and the Weizmann Institute in Israel, watched her father go through rehab after his brain injury. She became convinced that there must be a better, less pricey and convenient way to retrain brains.

So she founded Intendu, an Israeli startup that makes video games as an alternative to rehab. The games have patients solve real-world puzzles and move around, just like traditional rehab. They automatically adjust to fit patient needs and abilities.

"We are creating a future where brain rehabilitation is available to every person who needs it, everywhere," Preminger said. Plus, games are way more fun than dismal hospital puzzles.

Intendu is one of the finalists of the Chivas Regal Venture competition for social impact. The contest includes 30 startups from around the world – Mexico, Spain and South Africa just to name a few places – vying for the prestigious award. Voting is now open to the general public.

"Gamifying" has been getting a lot of press lately, and for good reason. Games can turn on a mysterious switch in your brain that lets people do amazing things that they couldn't do otherwise, all while having fun. If video games can save the world, as people like Israeli game designer Asi Burak have become famous for arguing, then treating brain injuries with video games seems like a great first step.

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