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Are Video Games a Possible Treatment for Schizophrenia?

Posit Science, co-founded by Michael Merzenich, emeritus professor of Neuroscience at the University of California at San Francisco, is developing brain-training software designed to help treat individuals who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia retrain their brain to process information in a different way.  In his Washington Post article, “Trying to Help Schizophrenic with Computer Brain Games”, Hristio Boytchev wrote, ‘Treating schizophrenia with brain training is based on the theory that the confusion and fear the disease creates may occur because the brain’s expectations about what will happen do not match up with what actually happens. That disconnect might be traced to a problem with verbal and auditory processing of information, something that brain training targets.”

In order to correct this disconnect, Merzenich and the Posit Science team are developing a video game that they are hoping will be the first of it’s kind to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating schizophrenia.  Clinical trials for the game are currently underway in several locations throughout the US, in collaboration with the Schizophrenia Trials Network, a group of university-based researchers.

A professional design and development team who created the brain training game for Posit Science developed an interesting world full of virtual characters with an appealing, cartoonlike design and a mellow, relaxing soundtrack that provides a soothing learning environment.  A treatment  session with the game typically involves 5 hours with the software every week for 3-4 months.   Henry Mahncke, chief executive of Posit Science said, “An advantage of using schizophrenia for brain-training research lies in the severity of the disease. As a result, small gains achieved via the software can be of statistical significance. We hope that once such gains can be shown with schizophrenia, similar training can be tested for other conditions, such as dementia and for healthy individuals as well.”