Video game teaches kids to curb anger

Last Updated: Thu, Oct 25, 2012 10:52 hrs

Washington: A simple video game can help children with serious anger issues to hone their ability to regulate their emotions, according to a US study.

Noticing that children with anger control problems are often uninterested in psychotherapy but are very eager to play video games, Jason Kahn and Joseph Gonzalez-Heydrich at Boston Children's Hospital developed "RAGE Control" to motivate children to practice emotional control skills.

The fast-paced game involves shooting at enemy spaceships while avoiding shooting at friendly ones. As children play, a monitor on one finger tracks their heart rate and displays it on the computer screen, the journal Adolescent Psychiatry reports.

When heart rate goes above a certain level, players lose their ability to shoot at the enemy spaceships. To improve their game, they must learn to keep calm, according to a Boston Children's statement.

"The connections between the brain's executive control centres and emotional centres are weak in people with severe anger problems," explains Gonzalez-Heydrich, chief of psychopharmacology at Boston Children's and senior investigator on the study.

"However, to succeed at RAGE Control, players have to learn to use these centres at the same time to score points," adds Gonzalez-Heydrich.

The study, led by Peter Ducharme, clinical social worker at Boston Children's, compared two groups of nine to 17-year-old children admitted to the hospital's Psychiatry Inpatient Service who had high levels of anger.

To qualify for the study, the children had to have a normal IQ and not need a medication change during the five-day study period.

One group of 19 kids received standard treatments for anger including cognitive-behavioural therapy, presentation of relaxation techniques and social skills training for five consecutive business days.

The second group, with 18 children, got these same treatments, but spent the last 15 minutes of their psychotherapy session playing RAGE Control.

After five sessions, the children were significantly better at keeping their heart rate down.

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