Video game calm patients with schizophrenia

King’s College London

People with schizophrenia can be trained by playing a video game for the control of the part of the brain linked to verbal hallucinations, the researchers say.

Patients in a small study were able to land a rocket in the game when it was connected to the brain region sensitive to the voice and human voices.

At the time, the patients learned to use the technique in your everyday life to reduce the power of the hallucinations.

But this is a small pilot study and the results still must be confirmed.

The research team, from King’s College London, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience and the University of Roehampton, says that the technique could be used to help the schizophrenia in patients who do not respond to the medication.

People with the condition are known to have a more active role of the auditory cortex, which means that they are more sensitive to sounds and voices.
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All 12 patients in the study of the unpleasant experience and the threat of verbal hallucinations every day – a common symptom of schizophrenia.

To try to control their symptoms, they were asked to play a video game, while in a magnetic resonance imaging scanner, using their own mental strategies to move an automated file of rockets and, in doing so, they were able to lower the volume of the external voices that are heard as well.

King’s College London

Dr Natasza Orlov, from King’s College London, said: “patients know when the voices are about to start – you can feel it, so that we want to bring immediately to this type of aid in effect to reduce them, or stop the voices completely.”

She said that all the patients in the study, in which every one had four laps in the magnetic resonance imaging scanner, they found that their voices became less external and more internal, making it less stressful. They were also more able to deal with them.

Dr Orlov added: “Despite the fact that the study sample size is small and we lacked a control group, these results are promising.

“We are now planning to conduct a randomized controlled study to test this technique in a larger sample.”

Prof Sukhi Shergill from the King, a psychiatrist at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, said the research offers “a new approach” to help patients.

“While this is preliminary data, it is particularly promising that the patients were able to control their brain activity, even without the RM – suggesting that this may be a strategy that people who have followed the magnetic resonance imaging of neuro-feedback training protocol, can benefit at home.”

The study was published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.