A new adaptive videogame for training attention and executive functions: Design principles and initial validation

Veronica Montani, Michele De Filippo De Grazia, Marco Zorzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A growing body of evidence suggests that action videogames could enhance a variety of cognitive skills and more specifically attention skills. The aim of this study was to develop a novel adaptive videogame to support the rehabilitation of the most common consequences of traumatic brain injury (TBI), that is the impairment of attention and executive functions. TBI patients can be affected by psychomotor slowness and by difficulties in dealing with distraction, maintain a cognitive set for a long time, processing different simultaneously presented stimuli, and planning purposeful behavior. Accordingly, we designed a videogame that was specifically conceived to activate those functions. Playing involves visuospatial planning and selective attention, active maintenance of the cognitive set representing the goal, and error monitoring. Moreover, different game trials require to alternate between two tasks (i.e., task switching) or to perform the two tasks simultaneously (i.e., divided attention/dual-tasking). The videogame is controlled by a multidimensional adaptive algorithm that calibrates task difficulty on-line based on a model of user performance that is updated on a trial-by-trial basis. We report simulations of user performance designed to test the adaptive game as well as a validation study with healthy participants engaged in a training protocol. The results confirmed the involvement of the cognitive abilities that the game is supposed to enhance and suggested that training improved attentional control during play.

Original languageEnglish
Article number409
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberMAY
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Attention
  • Attention deficits
  • Cognitive enhancement
  • Executive functions
  • Videogames

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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