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Link between Video Games and Pain Relief

WHEELING, W.VA March, 2003--Relief from pain may only be a joystick away. Results of new study from Wheeling Jesuit University suggest video games can distract someone's attention from a painful activity, and can help people with chronic pain problems, particularly children.

The study, Differential Effects Of Video Gameplay On Pain Threshold And Tolerance: Cognitive Vs. Action Games, is co-authored by Bryan Raudenbush, assistant professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, W.Va., and two students: Jerrod Koon and Sarah Lilley.

"This study found that playing video games significantly distracts people from painful stimulation. This could be a great adjunct to pain management in children," says Raudenbush.

The researchers will present the study at the June 2003 Conference of the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity in Savannah, Georgia.

Raudenbush notes that past research indicates visual distractions may increase human pain tolerance. The present study assessed different types of video game distractions and personality characteristics on pain threshold, tolerance, and ratings. Participants engaged in three different conditions: mental video game, active video game, and a baseline control. Participants experienced each condition 10 minutes prior to the pain administration (cold pressor test), and during subsequent pain testing. Physiological measures of oxygen saturation, pulse, and blood pressure were assessed prior to task, post task, and post pain administration. Following pain administration, participants completed questionnaires concerning competitiveness, aggressiveness, and video game playing habits. Results indicate that the active video game was successful in reducing participants' pain ratings and increasing pain tolerance when compared to the mental video game and baseline condition.

"Personality characteristics of aggressiveness, competitiveness, and prior video game playing habits were not a significant factor in affecting pain measures. Thus, the present study indicates that active video game play is an effective adjunct to pain management, regardless of aggressive or competitive tendencies, or prior video game playing habits," explained Raudenbush.

---Wheeling Jesuit University

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