Psychologists consider video games for therapy

Are Video Games The Cure For Socially Awkward Behavior?

Health Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas have teamed up with game experts to produce a video game program that puts participants in social situations to help them better develop their social skills.

Mashable earlier this week interviewed Carly McCuller, who volunteered to be a part of the Center’s video game experiment. The video game ‘tested her social cognition and provided feedback’ by tracking her facial expressions as she moved through the video game’s real-life scenarios. McCuller told Mashable that while playing the video game, you start to develop the same emotions you would experience were you in that situation in real life, blurring the line between fiction and reality.

“The program starts to not feel like a game… It feels real.”

Dr. Sandra Chapman, The Center for BrainHealth’s Founder and Director, told the Huffington Post that virtual reality helps people to practice social interaction, making video games ideal for developing more effective social skills.

“Practicing social interaction in a safe, non-threatening, gaming environment helps people reduce anxiety and gain the confidence and skills they need to attempt more social interactions in their daily lives.”

According to Techtimes, the video game is designed to help persons with conditions that make them socially awkward such as Autism spectrum disorder and traumatic brain disorders. Thus far, all signs indicate that using video games for therapy have positive effects on the social lives of patients. Tandra Allen, M.D, lead clinician of the project, said that parents have noted that their children have a better understanding of quality relationships after being involved in video game therapy.

Video game therapy looks promising for persons with ADHD as well. The Inquistr reported that the number childhood ADHD diagnoses in America is continuously increasing. WZZM reports that some 6 million children in the U.S are diagnosed with ADHD. Those with ADHD have problems with concentration for long periods of time and take medication to help them concentrate better. Dr. Eugene Arnold of the Ohio State University is hoping that through video game interaction, one day kids will no longer have to take medicine to improve their attention span, but through repetition and the creation of muscle memory, they can create a permanent cure.

“Medicine only works as long as you take it. We’re hoping this will actually make some changes in the brain so that you can kind of reach a place where you don’t have to take medicine.”

Techtimes reports that though there are special video games created for therapy, researchers have found that popular video games created simply for leisure also have the abilty to improve cognitive skills. These video games include ‘Halo’ and the ‘Super Mario Brothers’.

[Image via GameInformer]

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