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Category: Disease Treatment

Video Games Can Tackle Depression and Mental Disorders

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For a long time, psychiatrists have been warning over the link between depression and video games. But this situation is changing with the findings from the new studies. For instance, a compelling new study has followed thousands of Canadian teenagers for several years tracking associations between screen time use and depression. The research separated different types of screen time, and found while frequent television and social media activity correlated with increased symptoms of depression, video game and computer use seemed to have little or no negative effect. The researchers hypothesize the reason behind social media and television potentially being more damaging to mental health is that these forms of media more realistically depict idealized versions of teens and adults, unlike the abstracted depictions seen in video games. The study also suggests the average gamer is not socially isolated, with more than 70 per cent of gamers playing with other people either online or in person.

A study supporting the idea of using video games to alleviate symptoms of depression, was recently published. Kühn et al. (2018) showed that the fast paced action video games has potential to improve cognitive ability and reduce rumination in depressed individuals. They recruited 68 clinically depressed individuals that were randomized into the training group playing a fast paced action video game for 6 weeks or a waitlist control group. Before and after training participants completed online questionnaires and a neuropsychological test battery. The training group showed significantly higher subjective cognitive ability, as well as lower self-reported rumination at posttest in contrast to the control group. On a subsample with cognitive performance data they detected an improvement in executive function in the training compared with the control group. The results show that the fast paced action video game employed in the study improved Trail Making performance and may reduce rumination and enhance subjective cognitive ability.

In addition to those findings, video games have started to be developed to tackle mental health issues, particularly depression. Such as Sea of Solitude developed by Electronic Arts. Last year, a game called Celeste explored depression and anxiety through a protagonist who had to avoid physical and emotional obstacles. In 2017’s fantasy action-adventure video game Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, a young Celtic warrior deals with psychosis. Other games in recent years, including Night in the Woods and Pry, have delved into self-identity, anger issues and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Some makers are now developing games to explicitly promote better mental health. Orpheus Self Care Entertainment, a start-up that was founded last year, is publishing virtual reality games in which players practice mindfulness and meditation through activities like dancing. In one game, players move their bodies in virtual reality to create patterns and shapes that move and change color. IThrive Games Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to improve mental health in teenagers through games and education, is also working on a new mobile game for teenagers who suffer from anxiety. The nonprofit is experimenting with a few different game styles — from role-playing to choose-your-own-adventure — for it. IThrive hopes to test the game by next year.

Rather than keeping people, especially teenagers, away from video games for the purpose of protecting their mental health, in the following years we will see video games being used in the fight against mental problems.

Kühn, S., Berna, F., Lüdtke, T., Gallinat, J., & Moritz, S. (2018). Fighting depression: action video game play may reduce rumination and increase subjective and objective cognition in depressed patients. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 129.

Lazy Eye Treatment For Adults By Video Games

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Amblyopia is often referred to as lazy eye, and it entails weaker vision in one eye due to a poor connection between the eye and the brain. It is a deficit in vision that arises from abnormal visual experience early in life. It was long thought to develop into a permanent deficit, unless properly treated before the end of the sensitive period for visual recovery. Until recently it was thought to be untreatable in adults, but new researches have proven that with consistent therapy even adults can improve their Amblyopia  at least partially recover visual acuity and stereopsis, especially through video games.

According to a study at the University of Berkeley, video games can help the treatment of lazy eyes in adults. The results of the study were published in August 2011 on the website of PLOS Biology. The researchers wanted to see if playing video games and exposure to the richer variety of details they provide could lead to visual improvements for patients with lazy eye similar to those seen with the more mundane visual tasks. They recruited 20 volunteers with amblyopia, ages 16 to 60 — half of them had strabismic amblyopia, which is marked by misaligned or crossed eyes; six had anisometropic amblyopia, in which the two eyes have significantly different prescriptions; another three had both conditions; and one volunteer had amblyopia caused by cataracts in one eye.

Boy Playing Game On Mobile

In the first experiment, 10 volunteers spent 20 two-hour sessions playing an action video game — "Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault," a first-person shooter game. In a second experiment, three other volunteers spent the same amount of time playing a non-action video game, "SimCity Societies," which required players to build things. As all the volunteers played the games, they wore a patch over their good eye.

Both action and non-action games yielded a 30 percent increase in visual acuity, or an average improvement of 1.5 lines on the standard letter chart used by optometrists. In comparison, it can take 120 hours of eye-patch therapy to see a one-line improvement on the letter chart in children with amblyopia. Performance was measured after every 10 hours of gaming, and some volunteers started improving earlier than 40 hours. Anisometropic volunteers also saw a 50 percent improvement in 3-D depth perception after 40 hours of playing video games. On the other hand some researchers found that even 45 minutes of therapy leads to improvement in visual acuity.

To check if these results were due to use of the eye patch instead of games, the scientists conducted a third experiment in which seven volunteers wore a patch over their good eye for 20 hours during normal daily activities such as watching television, reading books and surfing the Internet. In the end, they showed no improvement on vision tests. These volunteers were then asked to wear a patch while playing video games for 40 hours, and afterward they showed the same level of improvement as the volunteers in the other experiments.

To sum up, if you have lazy eye problem, you can simply patch the eye which has no lazy eye  problem, and play the video game to improve your vision acuity. There is no potential side effects and no risk. At the end of the day, you will have fun at least.