Shrinks to form raid guild in World of Warcraft

Paul Raven @ 31-07-2009

gamer playing World of WarcraftComputer games, especially persistent MMOs like World of Warcraft, are highly addictive – or so we’re told, albeit principally by people with money to make from treating said addiction. Indeed, gaming addiction is such a potentially lucrative market debilitating social cancer that psychiatrists want to form their own guild and start treating WoW addicts within the framework of the game itself. [via TechDirt; image by jerine]

Yes, you read that correctly. Treating people for MMO addiction. In an MMO.

Dr Graham said that some players were so addicted to these massively multiplayer online games that they played them for up to 16 hours a day, leading them to neglect their social lives and education.

He has called on Blizzard Entertainment, the company that makes World of Warcraft, to waive or discount the costs associated with joining the game so that therapists can more easily communicate with at-risk players in their preferred environment.

“We will be launching this project by the end of the year. I think it’s already clear that psychiatrists will have to stay within the parameters of the game. They certainly wouldn’t be wandering around the game in white coats and would have to use the same characters available to other players,” said Dr Graham.

“Of course one problem we’re going to have to overcome is that while a psychiatrist may excel in what they do in the real world, they’re probably not going to be very good at playing World of Warcraft.

“We may have to work at that if we are going to get through to those who play this game for hours at end.

Now, forgive me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this more than a bit weird? If an expert in alcohol addiction started saying “well, we think we should start drinking in bars so we can really reach the people who need our services, and moreover the bar owners should let us drink for free. Granted, we don’t really have a taste for alcohol ourselves, but I’m sure we’ll pick it up eventually if it’s for the good of the patient,” they’d be discredited immediately, right?

I suspect the real story here is one of psychiatry quacks chasing the hard-to-win money of middle-class parents who don’t understand their kids and who think that there must be a treatable medical reason for that… which is a market that will probably never completely die off, sad to say.


Fear-free living through pharmaceuticals

Edward Willett @ 13-03-2009

800px-Propranolol_80mg “We have nothing to fear but fear itself!” President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said (about the time he was enacting policies that may have lengthened the Great Depression, so he may have been wrong about that, but still, it’s a good quote).

But thanks to a team of Dutch researchers, led by Merel Kindt at the Universiteit van Amsterdam, we may not even have fear to fear in the future: using the beta-blocker propranolol they weakened the fear response and fear memories in human volunteers. Not only that, the fear did not return (Via EurekAlert):

Before fear memories are stored in the long-term memory, there is a temporary labile phase. During this phase, protein synthesis takes place that ‘records’ the memories. The traditional idea was that the memory is established after this phase and can, therefore, no longer be altered. However, this protein synthesis also occurs when memories are retrieved from the memory and so there is once again a labile phase at that moment. The researchers managed to successfully intervene in this phase.

During their experiments the researchers showed images of two different spiders to the human volunteers. One of the spider images was accompanied by a pain stimulus and the other was not. Eventually the human volunteers exhibited a startle response (fear) upon seeing the first spider without the pain stimulus being administered. The anxiety for this spider had therefore been acquired.

One day later the fear memory was reactivated, as a result of which the protein synthesis occurred again. Just before the reactivation, the human volunteers were administered the beta-blocker propranolol. On the third day it was found that the volunteers who had been administered propranolol no longer exhibited a fear response on seeing the spider, unlike the control group who had been administered a placebo. The group that had received propranolol but whose memory was not reactivated still exhibited a strong startle response.

The volunteers could still remember the association between the spider and pain stimulus, but it no longer elicited any emotional response. The researchers hope this work may lead to new treatments for patients with anxiety disorders.

Being the SFfish guy I am, I’m thinking more in terms of fearless super-soldiers, but I’m sure that’s just me.

(Interestingly, propranolol is already used by musicians and actors to deal with stage fright.)

(Image: Wikimedia Commons.)

[tags]drugs,medicine,psychiatry,psychology, pharmaceuticals, fear[/tags]


This is your pet. This is your pet on anti-anxiety drugs. Any questions?

Paul Raven @ 02-03-2009

sad pet dogThe recent hospitalization of a woman at the hands of her pet chimp has raised questions about the use of human psychiatric medicines in animals, after the victim’s initial (and now retracted) statement that the chimp had been given Xanax to control his agitation. Apparently it’s more common than I’d have expected:

As recently as the early 1990s, it was practically unheard of to treat animal behavior problems with drugs. Today it’s routine.

Prozac, for example, has been used in a few zoos to treat wild animals, including Johari, an adult female gorilla at Ohio’s Toledo Zoo that had been prone to violent fits.

But dogs and cats are by far the most common animals to be drugged to combat separation anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, aggression, noise phobia, and other issues.

The majority of anti-anxiety medications given to animals are the same ones used for people, although in different doses.

There’s a whole ethical can of worms here, and the sensitivity of the subject is exacerbated by the closeness many pet owners have to their charges. The angle I’d tend to take is that I’m not entirely convinced that the drugs in question are the best solution to the problem in humans, let alone animals – psychiatric pharmacology has what appears to be an alarming obsession with treating the symptoms rather than the root causes, and pharmacology in general seems to promise cures when it can only deliver crude controls.

But even if we take the efficacy of anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drugs as a given, is it right to give them to animals? Who are we to judge their mental states as being in need of correction? I know for a fact that my mother – an animal owner and breeder since long before I was born – would be appalled at the idea of giving psychiatric drugs to animals to control their mood, as she would consider dysfunctional behaviour to be a direct result of poor training and care. [image by Phil Romans]

Furthermore, as George Dvorsky points out his responses to the article, it begs the question of whether we should own pets at all. I think most of us could agree that keeping a chimp as a pet is not just unethical but foolish, but what of dogs and cats? The more we understand about animal psychology, the trickier these questions become.


NEW FICTION: ERASING THE MAP by Marissa Lingen

Paul Raven @ 02-02-2009

We’ve published a lot of wild and gonzo stuff at Futurismic in recent months, but we wouldn’t want you to make the mistake that’s all we like. And here’s an example: “Erasing the Map” by Marissa Lingen, which is subtle, quietly assertive, and handled perfectly.

Its thesis: If you could have traumatic memories surgically removed, would you take the risk of losing some of the memories you treasure? Read first, then make your mind up and tell us in the comments!

“Erasing the Map”

by Marissa Lingen

There was this one time, in college. I was arguing politics with this girl. Young Republican type. She had the blonde bob and the baby blue sweater, the whole works. I’d even seen her wear penny loafers. I liked her anyway. We were arguing about gun control, and I said there was absolutely no feeling in the world worse than killing another person.

I think if it had been another circumstance, another time, she would have responded by reaming me out about all the things she could think of that were worse. But it was a party. Maybe she thought I was cute. So instead, she batted those contact-lens-blue eyes at me and said, “And how many people have you killed?”

I said, “Just the one.”

It was the wrong answer, I knew, and the flirting look went off like a switch. But it was the only answer I could give. After she stared at me for a minute, I said, “It was an accident. I was ten years old.” She still didn’t say anything, so I said, “His name was Anthony, and he was my best friend.” Continue reading “NEW FICTION: ERASING THE MAP by Marissa Lingen”


Are antisocial kids just cortisol deficient?

Paul Raven @ 01-10-2008

Research at Cambridge University has found a link between delinquent behaviour in children and reduced levels of the so-called stress hormone, cortisol, which “enhances memory formation and is thought to make people behave more cautiously and to help them regulate their emotions, particularly their temper and violent impulses.”

First of all, I find this a little worrying, as it seems to be part of a trend to reduce all psychiatric problems (especially in kids) to phenomena that can be regulated with the correct cocktail of chemicals. Secondly, assuming for a moment that the link is confirmed, is this a recent development? In other words, have low-cortisol brains evolved as a response to an increasingly stressful world, or is the cause environmental?

And thirdly, has anyone thought of doing cortisol level testing on politicians? [story via FuturePundit]


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