You breathe in, you breathe out. About 20,000 times a day, we engage in this simple, life-giving activity.
For people with cystic fibrosis, breathing is anything but simple. To help kids with CF improve their lung function – and have a little fun in the process – we have developed an innovative use of video technology.
So how does it work? The new technology uses breath to control events on a screen. Initially, the technology involved a tracking game, in which participants would use eye/breath coordination to move a cursor up and down. It’s challenging – you need a fine sense of control of your breath and your breathing flow rate.
We received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to use different video games to teach kids about airway clearance. On the screen, the kids forcefully blow through a spirometer to either free a trapped animal or make a race car go faster.
The games encouraged the kids to practice their breathing, to clear their lungs, and to improve their breath coordination.
We see future applications for the video technology – for example, developing a game controller for kids with asthma, to help them improve symptom awareness and better manage their conditions. There is also the potential future use of the video technology for people with neuromuscular disease, such as Muscular Dystrophy, using the technology to help them strengthen their muscles.
Peter Bingham, MD, is a pediatric neurologist at the UVM Medical Center and Associate Professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.