Video games could have benefits for people living with schizophrenia, study finds

People living with schizophrenia could benefit from using video games as a form of therapy, an interesting new study suggests.

The news follows research carried out by King’s College London in collaboration with the University of Roehampton, which set out to determine whether video games could benefit people living with the increasingly common mental health condition by helping them to control their aural hallucinations.

Twelve patients were enlisted by scientists at King’s College’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) and placed inside a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine.

The patients were then asked to play a video game which involved attempting to safely land a computerised spaceship, which – through the MRI machine – reacted to the part of the players’ brain associated with registering speech.

Players were given no instructions whatsoever as to how to land the rocket ship and had to “develop their own mental strategies to move it,” according to reports.

Interestingly, patients playing the game exhibited significantly slower activity in the area of the brain that causes verbal hallucinations. After four games, they were even able to better control this section of their brain.

Dr Natasza Orlov from King’s College’s IoPPN, said: “We encouraged our patients to use the same control strategies that they learnt in the MRI scanner at home.

“The patients know when the voices are about to start – they can feel it, so we want them to immediately put this aid into effect to lessen them, or stop the voices completely.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have effective treatments for all of the people with schizophrenia who hear voices and it’s great that this innovative research offers a novel approach to help patients with continued symptoms.”

Commentators have said that the study could help to identify new ways of helping patients to control their hallucinations.

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