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Preliminary study suggests video games could be an effective therapy for schizophrenia...

By Cal Jeffrey ยท 8 replies
Feb 13, 2018
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  1. Scientists at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London and the University of Roehampton have just completed a “pilot” study that may lead to teaching schizophrenic patients how to control their verbal hallucinations.

    The study, published in Translational Psychiatry and titled "Real-time fMRI neurofeedback to down-regulate superior temporal gyrus activity in patients with schizophrenia and auditory hallucinations: a proof-of-concept study," involved 12 patients being placed in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine and shown a computerized rocket ship that reacted to the part of the brain that registers speech. They were instructed to land the in-game rocket ship safely but were not told how. They were only advised to “develop their own mental strategies to move it.”

    The rocket ship provided visual feedback to the subjects that led them to slow the activity in the portion of the brain that verbal hallucinations originate. It worked as a form of neurofeedback so as they quieted their voices, they were able to land the ship.

    The study not only provided insight for the researchers but also gave the subjects a tool they could use outside of the clinical environment.

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

    What the researchers found during the study was more than they had expected. After only four visits to the MRI, the patients were able to control that area of the brain without having the video game as feedback.

    “The results of this pilot are astonishing,” Professor Paul Allen from the University of Roehampton noted. “These are still early days in our research, however, patients who took part in the pilot study have told us that the training has helped them to calm their external voices down, so that they were able to internalise them more.”

    The researchers admit the study was small and somewhat informal since it did not have a control group. However, the results proved encouraging enough that they plan to expand the research soon.

    “We are now planning to conduct a randomised controlled study to test this technique in a larger sample,” said Orlov.

    Having had a family member diagnosed with schizophrenia, I know firsthand how debilitating and destructive auditory hallucinations can be. Most contemporary treatments involve antipsychotic medications which are not always effective. Being able to teach patients to control the part of the brain that causes hallucinations will be a tremendous benefit to individuals and their families.

    Permalink to story.

  2. I found myself jumping out of an airplane and landing on, what I thought was a deserted island, where about 99 natives were chasing me and trying to kill me with frying pans.

    Good thing I play PUBG so I don't have those fears and feelings any more.
    Reehahs and Lounds like this.
  3. EClyde

    EClyde TS Evangelist Posts: 1,609   +574

    Clozaril is an effective therapy. I saw the benefits in my patients and I also saw what happened to them when they could not take it. Video games? Sure...the researchers must have watched Shaun of the Dead
  4. MaXtor

    MaXtor TS Maniac Posts: 220   +154

    Of course medication is currently needed (and may always be), but why mock researching alternative treatments? I guess because they'll never come to fruition as non-pharmaceutical treatments are not ridiculously profitable.
    wiyosaya likes this.
  5. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,198   +4,857

    People are driven by everything, the only question is whether the effects are positive or negative. People who conduct these studies must be morons to think the study is needed to begin with. Video games do effect people in both negative and positive ways. So does everything else in life.
  6. antipsychotics, even the atypical ones all have horrible side effects. Weight gain, interfere with how the body metabolizes sugar making you more likely to end up a diabetic and then there are all the movement disorders. They also, I can't think of a better word for it than 'zone you out'. This effect is also sometines taken as improvement because the patients are less trouble when they are zombied out. For some they are essential, but you better be damn sure. Many who start on them and then stop start manifesting the movement disorders which go away with another dose. Big Pharma is not your friend, but there are those for whom this class of drugs are all that helps...well so far anyway
    wiyosaya likes this.
  7. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,311   +1,733

    So, basically, what they were doing was to teach them to concentrate, which is a precursor to meditation. In their concentration, they learned how to focus on and control the regions of their brains that are responsible for auditory hallucinations. Perhaps meditation might help those who respond to this.

    I recently read of a study recently that suggests that as long as the hallucinations are non-violent, then the condition, itself, might be better thought of in a positive light rather than assuming that anyone who claims to have hallucinations is ill.

    Medications, IMO, might be best for those whom nothing else helps; however, it seems the suggestion here is that by teaching at least some schizophrenic patients how to control the regions of their brains that cause these conditions is effective. As I see it, the medication route could be, for some, as bad or worse than the condition itself especially if there are other means of controlling the condition that are effective and do not require medication.
    MaXtor, Reachable and senketsu like this.
  8. EClyde

    EClyde TS Evangelist Posts: 1,609   +574

    "Horrible side effects" are perhaps not as bad to those afflicted by Schizophrenia as the disease itself. I have interacted with those on Clozaril and they told me they preferred the drug to being brain sick. There was not one that preferred going without it. Guys went from the mental hospital to home or group home. The one guy that developed a depressed WBC and could not remain on the drug was a heart breaking sight to see where he was and where he went without

    Big Pharma is my friend. Big Pharma has already paid over $125,000 for my medication in the last three years that I could not have afforded. I heard today they are picking up the tab this year on another $20,000 worth of BIG PHARMA product for me. Before you go blowing smoke think about cancer therapy, vaccines, etc. BIG PHARMA may keep you healthy one day soon
  9. That is why I carefully qualified my statement with "For some they are essential, but you better be damn sure" and "there are those for whom this class of drugs are all that helps...well so far anyway".
    I'm very glad that those you have interacted with have found some relief and that they have helped you financially. Mental disorders wreak a terrible toll on those affected, which unfortunately include me. I've come to have a big respect for the power of medications for good, but also for bad.
    For sure I wouldn't be alive without antibiotics for example, but I lost my military career when I could not DAG Green to be deployed to Afghanistan due to the meds I was taking. Things got to where I don't work, nor am I ever expected to. VAC recently even ended my rehabilitation program because nothing (except management like from CBT) worked at all. I'm on 4 medications so I am quite aware of that tension between this is helpful so suck up the side effects to drugs that don't help enough to be worth the side effects. I don't have schizophrenia though, but most of the people I see and hang out with all have mental disorders so I do see and hear the effects of the psychiatric drugs. I'd rather see research into better psychiatric drugs than say drugs that help you have a better erection.
    I cannot ignore though that Big Pharma spends more on advertising than on research, it has been revealed that all the drug test data was selectively released (good result, release, bad, can it). Journals are plagued with ghost written articles, doctors signing off on papers they had nothing to do with, but their name helps it get published, money paid to doctors, the problems go on and on.
    I'm in Canada tho so there is no direct to consumer advertising and how our universal health care program handles drugs differs greatly from the USA (I'm assuming you live there, but I could be wrong).

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