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Video game could help schizophrenia patients control hallucinations

A video game may help people with schizophrenia tune out external voices by allowing them to control the part of the brain associated with verbal hallucinations, according to a study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

The new research comes from scientists at King’s College London, who asked 12 schizophrenic patients — all of which have daily verbal hallucinations — to play a video game while in an MRI scanner. In the game, the subjects needed to move a computerized rocket that represented their own neural activity in the speech-sensitive part of the brain down to Earth.

After playing four times, the participants managed to reduce their neural activity and tune out external voices. That in turn lowered the power of their hallucinations. Eventually, researchers managed to get the patients to learn lasting strategies that they could apply to their everyday life.

“We want them to immediately put this aid into effect to lessen them, or stop the voices completely,” said lead author Natasza Orlov, a researcher at King’s College London, according to BBC News

Schizophrenia affects more than 21 million people across the world. Though there are many different types, one of the most common is hearing voices. Research shows that 70 percent of people with the condition hear voices, and medication only works for roughly 30 percent of those patients.

This new discovery could help ease such symptoms and provide those with the disease a new way to overcome their hallucinations. There is till a long way to go for this type of research, but there is no doubt the video game holds promise based on the early results. This could be especially helpful for people who do not respond well to medication, and the team hopes to continue their research in the coming months.

“These findings suggest that patients with AVH have the ability to alter activity and connectivity in speech and language regions, and raise the possibility that rtfMRI-NF training could present a novel therapeutic intervention in SCZ,” the researchers wrote in their study, according to Tech Times.

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