A US hospital has helped produce a video game designed to help children with serious anger management problems.

Rage Control uses a device placed on a child's finger to monitor heart rate and if it gets too high, they lose the ability to shoot at enemy spaceships, so the player must learn to keep calm in order to play the game successfully.

Researchers said the game led to "significant decreases" in anger in the children studied and senior investigator on the study, Dr Joseph Gonzalez-Heydrich explained: "The connections between the brain's executive control centres and emotional centres are weak in people with severe anger problems.

"However, to succeed at Rage Control, players have to learn to use these centres at the same time to score points."

The study, led by Boston Children's Hospital, compared two groups of nine- to 17-year-olds.

Both groups received standard anger management treatments - but the second group also spent 15 minutes playing Rage Control at the end of their session.

The study said that after five sessions, the children who had played the game were better at keeping their heart rate down - and showed lower scores on a recognised rating scale for severity of anger issues in children.

Researchers hope that children playing the game would be able to apply the same calming techniques to other areas of life.

"Kids reported feeling better control of their emotions when encountering day-to-day frustrations on the unit," lead author Peter Ducharme said.

"While this was a pilot study, and we weren't able to follow the kids after they were discharged, we think the game will help them control their emotions in other environments."

Next steps in the study include producing toys made with similar principles for children too young to be suitable for the video game.

Posted 26/10/2012 by richard.hook@pavpub.com