Dirk Bertens
Dirk Bertens

Innovation in brain injury rehabilitation: Karman Line games

For brain-injured patients, the emergence of brain games seems to offer hope for recovery and improvement of brain functions. In this growing market, Dirk Bertens' Karman Line games distinguish themselves by focusing on teaching compensation strategies instead of 'restoring' or improving specific brain functions. Over the next two years, the games will be brought to market with a take-off grant from NWO and ZonMw.

Dirk Bertens was recently appointed Principal Investigator (PI) at the Donders Centre for Cognition. The research within his Cognitive Rehabilitation research group that led to the development of the Karman Line games was triggered by existing literature on brain games. Bertens, also working as a Clinical Neuropsychologist at Klimmendaal Rehabilitation Specialists, noted that although many players improve their skills in these games, they do not always achieve functional progress outside the games. This led to a shift in focus of the Karman Line games, focusing on improving patients' everyday functioning by teaching them strategies that are also used in rehabilitation treatments.

For example, when shopping, patients fill in a strategy in advance with intermediate steps that they can refer to in the supermarket and check whether this action is still going according to plan. Bertens: "What makes the Karman Line games unique is not only the emphasis on functional recovery, but also the integration of proven effective treatments, such as Goal Management Training (GMT) for persons with planning problems. In addition, Karman Line components have been developed targeting memory, information processing tempo and fatigue, a common problem in brain damage. These treatments, incorporated in a playful and accessible format, enable patients to perform complex daily tasks."

Important addition to existing treatments

Bertens stresses that the Karman Line games are not a replacement for treatments, but rather an addition to them. The games fit seamlessly with proven effective treatments. Normally, a brain-injured patient only comes to the rehabilitation centre for treatment and practising at home proves more difficult. These games offer an option but also really motivate patients to get started at home. This seamless integration of treatment into daily life is crucial for achieving long-term and sustainable results.

The success of the Karman Line game is partly due to the close cooperation between the Donders Institute, Klimmendaal, Yellow Riders, Islandworks and Big4Data. This multidisciplinary approach, combined with state-of-the-art technologies, highlights researchers' commitment to bridging the gap between scientific research and clinical practice.

After four years of development and research by two PhD students, the games are ready for real implementation. With a take-off grant from NWO and a 'Main Issues' grant from ZonMw, the next two years will be spent exploring the market and pathway to practice in order to implement the games in the best possible way. By combining innovative technologies with proven treatment methods, this game offers hope not only of improving cognitive functions, but also of increasing patients' quality of life. For more information and to discover the Karman Line game, please visit the Klimmendaal website.