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Harnessing the Health Powers of Gaming 34

conq writes "BusinessWeek.com has a piece on how some new videogames are being designed with health-related applications in mind. From the article: 'A stopwatch and a tub of frigid ice water are the standard tools medical researchers use to test pain tolerance. How long can a person keep his arm submerged? In an unusual project, last year researchers at the University of Maryland's medical center used the arm-in-ice water test to evaluate a new video game called Free Dive. The researchers found that their subjects — 60 children, ranging in age from 5 to 12 — were able to keep an arm submerged for about 19 seconds on average. If, however, they simultaneously played Free Dive on a PC with their dry hand, the kids could tolerate an average of 86 seconds in the icy liquid — an increase of more than 400%.'" Juan Rey also writes to mention a report from financial news group Bloomberg, saying that Nintendo expects that their upcoming diet-related software for the Wii will succeed the way 'Brain Training' has done with DS.
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Harnessing the Health Powers of Gaming

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  • In another experiment, a gamer submerged in water was oblivious to a gradual increase in the temperature of the water. The gamers would continue to happily play until rescued, or until the games were turned off.
    • by mrxak ( 727974 )
      I really don't get the ice water experiment, and I've actually been subjected to it before. I've kept my arm submerged in ice water for more than five minutes, only taking it out because my shoulder and elbow was getting sore from holding it in a rather awkward position (bucket wasn't all that big). It stung, I guess, but as far as pain goes, I've had much worse. If anything, your arm sort of gets numb and you don't feel it as much. I suppose if I had something to distract me, I probably could have kept it
      • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )
        I also did the ice water experiment in high school. I only took my hand out so I would still have class time left to finish my notes for the experiment.

        What I'm getting at is, why ice water to test pain?

        Because parents get upset when you set fire to their children. Or cut or stab them. Or whip, boil, fry, burn with acid, spindle, fold, or otherwise mutilate them. Temporary submergence of a limb in ice water is harmless.

        Well, some of them do.

        And they really object to the opposite test: determining your p
        • by mrxak ( 727974 )
          Why not mild electric shock? After all, these same parents put those special collars on their pets, right?
  • I've never heard of this pain tolerance test before, yet now I have a sudden urge to masochistically dunk one arm in ice water and then repeat the result while playing WoW.

    I can just see this being used for field pain relief: I need a DS and New Super Mario Brothers, stat!

    At least, next time I stub my toe, I might use it as an excuse to play a video game. (I might also have more 'accidents' if I can use this argument.)
    • by mrxak ( 727974 )
      I wouldn't recommend it. You'll end up getting more wet than anything. Plus, having a big bucket of ice water can't be so safe next to a computer anyway, can it?
  • by Threni ( 635302 )
    > How long can a person keep his arm submerged? In an unusual project, last year researchers at the
    > University of Maryland's medical center used the arm-in-ice water test to evaluate a new video game
    > called Free Dive.

    Sounds more fun than the average game from Bullfrog, anyway...
  • I knew it! (Score:4, Funny)

    by MrSquirrel ( 976630 ) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @02:24PM (#15928468)
    This proves my theory all along -- video games give me super-human powers! I must only use my powers for good... now, to find criminals using the dangerous properties of ice water to molest the populus... and show them just how well I can tolerate their weapon of choice!
  • Distraction (Score:2, Interesting)

    I recall hearing on a science podcast a while ago that a similar technique is being tested in dentistry. It was reported that patients who wore glasses that showed them a movie were able to withstand significantly more invasive and painful procedures for longer periods of time before anesthesia was required. Since pain is created in the brain, it makes good sense that "distracting" the brain would make it significantly easier to withstand greater amounts of pain. The many anecdotes of soldiers sustaining
    • by faloi ( 738831 )
      I wonder if it would be possible to train someone to consciously ignore the pain centre of the brain in this manner?

      I would think the number of men that are able to watch chick flicks in order to earn brownie points with their wives would prove it's possible.
      • by tacarat ( 696339 )
        I wonder if it would be possible to train someone to consciously ignore the pain centre of the brain in this manner?

        I would think the number of men that are able to watch chick flicks in order to earn nookie points with their wives would prove it's possible.

        • by mrxak ( 727974 )
          I wonder if it would be possible to train someone to consciously ignore the pain centre of the brain in this manner?
          I've certainly heard of cancer patients being taught how to meditate/self-hypnosis. It is definitely possible to block out pain if you have the will to do so.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Chimera512 ( 910750 )
      my docotor when i was a kid adn afraid of shots once punched me in the arm and then gave me the shot in the other. I was too busy going "WTF my doctor just tried to give me a dead arm" to react to the shot.
    • The many anecdotes of soldiers sustaining horrendous injuries but fighting on without knowing would seem to corroborate this.

      Adrenaline &&/|| shock != distraction.

    • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
      Yes, I've learned that technique when I was in a hospital with 3rd degree burns on my leg (I was 10 years old at that time).

      Doctor told me to think about my favorite movie heroes and try to imagine their adventures at the times I was given painkillers (I ended up thinking about programming). It worked, after some time I could do without painkillers most of times.

      And it still works (I'm 23 years old now), it's particulary useful when I'm at the dentist's because oral anastetics don't work well for me (unusua
  • Health benefits? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nosredna ( 672587 ) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @02:27PM (#15928496)
    It seems to me that subjecting yourself to dangerous or painful situations for longer periods of time is exactly the opposite of a health benefit.

    Pain is how the body tells the mind that it needs to cut out what it's doing because it's likely to cause a problem. While some degree of pain tolerance is a good thing, sitting there and ignoring pain to do something fun is quite dangerous. If you pull a muscle in the first quarter of a game of football, you sit out the rest of the game to avoid making it worse. Of course it's good for the rest of your team during that game if you play anyway, ignoring the pain, but it's not good for you to do so. You, at the very least, risk a greater injury.

    This is obviously a good thing for the game company, since they get their users to ignore their own well-being to play the game more, but it is far from a good thing for the user.
    • by Kesch ( 943326 )
      I think it's use is more for people who cannot stop the pain. The hypothetical scenario I envision is any number of patients who are stuck in the hospital or in their home with some sort of chronic pain. The study suggests that they can use video games as a way of easing pain without having to resort to pain medications or at least resulting in them needing smaller doses.
      • by mrxak ( 727974 )
        Yup, that's exactly it. Any time you can distract a person or teach them how to ignore pain, as opposed to medicating it, is better. After all, would you rather be a morphine addict or know how to deal with pain on your own?
    • by timster ( 32400 )
      You seem to have missed the point -- if this research is true, it suggests that games could be useful as a treatment for chronic pain, or that they might have a place (along with other painkillers) as part of post-op pain treatment. This can be a very major health benefit as these useless forms of pain can have serious side effects by themselves and the drugs used to treat them also have side effects.
    • I had one about two years ago, and have another one sitting and waiting. After the initial burst of pain (which took a trip to the hospital for Dilaudid for pain and various other things to stop the constant vomiting) I had several days where I was working on passing it. I was stoned on Percocet the entire time, to the point where I had entire conversations I no longer remember with friends.

      I spent a lot of time trying to find a decent dose of Percocet where I could be coherent but still deal with the p

    • It's strange to hear about doctors giving kids computer games to reduce ice water pain - my doctor has me putting ice on my shoulder to reduce the pain and inflammation from RSI from too much computer use...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Having a similar contest as a teenager in the Boy Scouts, we discovered that after a couple of practice runs...

    We could keep our arms submerged until they died. The pain slowly climbed and then hit a plateau and then fell off as the receptors in the limb shut down.
    So after a minute or two of having my arm underwater, we all decided that the contest had now become pointless. I waited to get some level of motor coordination back and went about my business.

    What the hell kind of pansies do they do this resear
  • ...will succeed the way 'Brain Trainig' has done with DS.
    Perhaps the Slashdot editors could use a little brain training [spellcheck.net] of their own.
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by Zonk ( 12082 ) *
      Oh totally. I just recently got my Brain Age *down* to 32, which I consider a huge victory.
  • This is not entirely new; This is allready known, and used, in several hospitals when painful procedures (eg. wrapping off/on new bandages on burn-wound victims) take place: Just drop the kid behind a console, and while he is busy playing his game, the doctor goes to work: The distraction helps out -a lot- for these kids, and is one thing you -don't- hear good ol' Jack Thompson include in his insane rants.

    Besides distraction, there are a lot more applications for 'games' in treatments:
    I worked on a proje

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