“Children 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…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.”
Abstract: Emotional dysregulation in childhood, which has been linked to significant social problems in older adolescence, is one of the most common reasons for pediatric mental health treatment and psychiatric hospitalizations. Behavioral approaches to treatment for these disorders are limited, however, resulting in increasing use of restraints and psychotropic drugs. A pilot study was implemented on an inpatient psychiatric unit to evaluate feasibility and provide proof of concept for a novel behavioral intervention comprised of anger control therapy (ACT), a cognitive-behavioral therapy intervention, augmented by RAGE-Control, a videogame that trains players to regulate physiological arousal in a challenging but controlled situation. Patients (N=18, 9–17 years old) with high levels of anger documented by the State Trait Anger Expression Inventory-Child and Adolescent (STAXI-CA) were enrolled in a 5-session intervention (Experimental group). Changes in STAXI-CA State-Anger and Trait-Anger scores from baseline to Day 5 were compared to those of a demographically comparable treatment as usual (TAU) historic control group (N=19). The Experimental group showed large reductions in STAXI-CA scores, compared to the TAU group. Compliance and satisfaction were high. These findings support the feasibility of the ACT with RAGE-Control intervention. Randomized controlled trials augmenting ACT with the RAGE-Control game are needed to establish efficacy.