Can a couple of hours on the PlayStation really lower your pain threshold?
Video games could become part of the modern physician's repertoire, based on research released this week that suggests playing games reduces sensitivity to pain.
US professor Bryan Raudenbush conducted a study with 30 college students. Each student had a hand submerged in ice-cold water, once with no distraction and twice more while playing one of two video games.
Subjects who played a zombie-shooting action game during the experiment were able to tolerate the pain a full minute longer than those without a game or those playing a mah-jongg puzzle game.
Raudenbush said: "It was only the video game that would produce the effect."
The professor said that while he was restricted to testing young adults, he expects the results would be even more dramatic with children - offering hope to parents who endure the tantrums of a young child being inoculated or given dental treatment. "[Young children] have even less of an attention span, so the effect should be greater," he said.
Raudenbush said: "We're thinking doctors who deal with children might find it useful to outfit their office with a video game machine."
The researcher said the distraction effect should be pretty familiar to parents. "I got started on this after hearing from friends of mine who had children, and talked about how wrapped up they got in video games and how hard it was to get them to come to dinner or do homework," he said. "I wanted to see if you could distract people from something you might really want to be distracted from."