An expanding body of evidence suggesting that video games may be of therapeutic value, especially in patients with schizophrenia.

In a recent publication in the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry, researchers conducted a systematic review of publications exploring the impact of video games in individuals with schizophrenia.

The authors identified seven studies published from 2017 to 2022 that examined the clinical benefits of commercial video games in individuals with schizophrenia and related disorders regarding symptoms, cognition, and functional outcomes.

The results revealed that six studies utilized a randomized, controlled trial design. The authors noted that correlations between gaming and better outcomes were discovered in three key areas: physical condition (walking speed, aerobic fitness), neurocognition (processing speed, memory, and executive functions), social functioning, self-efficacy in daily life activities, and quality of life.

The authors noted that all seven studies concluded that using commercial video games positively impacted functional and cognitive outcomes in individuals with schizophrenia. They also stated that commercial active video games involving physical activity may contribute to averting physical decline in that patient population; however, none of the studies reported a significant impact on the severity of clinical symptoms.

Based on their findings, the authors wrote, “Active use of video games is associated with better aerobic fitness and cognitive performances. Video gaming may contribute to better functional outcome and quality of life in patients suffering from cognitive impairments and difficulties in social functioning.” They also added that individuals with schizophrenia may benefit from using commercial video games because of their potential therapeutic impact on functioning and cognition.

The authors concluded, “Commercial video games are readily available and less expensive than most serious games, making them accessible to a wide range of people. They should be more widely incorporated in rehabilitation programs as they may offer help to patients’ refractory to the more conventional treatments and contribute to promoting their recovery.”

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