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Video game with biofeedback teaches children to curb their anger
Date:10/25/2012

Boston, Mass. , Oct. 24, 2012Children with serious anger problems can be helped by a simple video game that hones their ability to regulate their emotions, finds a pilot study at Boston Children's Hospital. Results were published online October 24 in the journal Adolescent Psychiatry.

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

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. 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.

"The connections between the brain's executive control centers and emotional centers 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 centers at the same time to score points."

The study, led by first author Peter Ducharme, MSW, a clinical social worker at Boston Children's, compared two groups of 9- 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, with 19 children, received standard treatments for anger including cognitive-behavioral therapy, presentation of relaxation techniques and social skills training for five consecutive business days. The
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Contact: Meghan Weber
Meghan.Weber@childrens.harvard.edu
617-919-3110
Boston Children's Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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