Virtual Cooking Task Assesses Ability to Multi-Task After TBI

Brain with Colorful Paint

People who experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may struggle to focus on tasks or to engage in multitasking behaviors during the course of their recovery. These attentional deficits may impair a person’s daily quality of life. Unfortunately, diagnostic assessments for multitasking ability after injury are rare, as these cognitive processes are difficult to recreate in a laboratory setting.

A recent study in Switzerland addressed this issue by introducing a computerized Serious Game multitasking task to eighteen elderly participants. In this virtual cooking task (developed using Unity 3D software), participants completed multitasking objectives (such as boiling a pot of water while attending to other kitchen needs) on a touchscreen setup. To determine if the virtual assessment accurately reflects participants’ real-life abilities, researchers administered an actual cooking task, in which participants were asked to prepare a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce. They found that participants’ performance on the virtual task was significantly correlated with their real-life task performance, suggesting that the Serious Game cooking task assessment accurately represents participants’ real-time cognitive multitasking abilities.

Even during activities as commonplace as preparing a meal, we must mentally attend to multiple tasks and respond appropriately. For people who have experienced TBI, cognitive impairments may render multitasking especially difficult. The Serious Games virtual cooking task provides clinicians with a concrete method for assessing a person’s ability to multitask after injury, allowing them to formulate treatment plans that ensure improved post-injury quality of life.

Vallejo V, Wyss P, Chesham A, et al. Evaluation of a new serious game based multitasking assessment tool for cognition and activities of daily living: Comparison with a real cooking task. Computers in Human Behavior. (January 2017).

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