Some time ago the game passed the threshold of entertainment, and is investigating the therapeutic power they may have. It is the area of so-called ‘serious games’, and very interesting results are being achieved. Moreover, it is not uncommon to attend a congress of psychology and see a stand dedicated to teaching virtual reality applications for clinical purposes such as treating phobias, quitting smoking, etc . After all, with them you can work with numerous cognitive abilities, in addition to developing simulation environments for different purposes.
One of the latest findings comes recently from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London and the University of Roehampton. It is an application of video games for the treatment of schizophrenia, something that is also being investigated in Spain at the University of Castilla-La Mancha .
Concentration, the key to reducing hallucinations
The British studio uses a game that consists of landing a spaceship, a simple task that requires a lot of concentration. They did a study with a sample of 12 clinical cases diagnosed with schizophrenia. When people noticed that they began to feel auditory hallucinations, they were asked to initiate this activity of landing the ship, while brain activity was monitored with an MRI. With this process of concentration, the patients were able to reduce the intensity of the hallucinations, and even make them disappear. The objective of the study was to get these people to learn and internalize that same concentration process that they used to land the rocket, but in situations in which they were not playing. Thus, they could use these cognitive tools themselves to control brain activity and avoid these unpleasant hallucinatory episodes.
The King’s College study is still obtaining preliminary results, and if they are of this relevance, it is very hopeful for the future. Research from the University of Castilla-La Mancha used the Nintendo Wii console to improve various cognitive abilities of patients with schizophrenia, such as processing speed, reasoning, working memory or attention. This allows to improve its functionality and quality of life.
The psychological treatment of schizophrenia
Although schizophrenia is a mental disorder that involves distorted brain activity, in the sense that symptoms such as hallucinations appear, sometimes also paranoid ideas, disorganized language, etc., not everything comes down to drug treatment. The psychological treatment of schizophrenia, which accompanies the pharmacological one, goes along the lines of allowing the person to develop all the tools to have a life that is as functional as possible. The adaptation to living with the disorder, prevention of the appearance of symptoms, all this process of improving the most damaged cognitive abilities, works with the environment of people with schizophrenia, emotional regulation, and also the treatment of associated symptoms. , such as anxiety ordepression that can develop from schizophrenia.
It is very important to find new ways in which the person with schizophrenia can learn to control these symptoms. First, because it makes her more autonomous, she looks stronger and more capable, less limited. It could also allow drug treatment to be reduced, always depending on the case. And it is well known that these antipsychotic drugs carry side effects that cause the patient, on many occasions, to refuse to take them. Although pharmacological research tries to reduce them to the maximum, in the end they have to act on our behavior, and that has its consequences.
In addition, people with schizophrenia, unless they are very specific or serious cases, do not have to limit themselves to being mere “mental patients” with a disabling life. They can, perfectly, continue to have an autonomous and functional life , and that is why it is very important to develop effective and satisfactory psychological interventions, and it seems that video games are helping a lot in this regard.