NOVEMBER 15-30, 2007


A sneak peek at the lifesaving devices of tomorrow

Video game plays with the mind, lowers stress
Photo credit: Chantale Arsenault/MindHabits Inc.

Anti-stress video game turns frowns upside down
MONTREAL — A video game designed to help your patients cope with anxiety has the added bonus of reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol by 17%, according to a study in October's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Developed by McGill researchers, the Matrix video game involves a series of exercises that train the mind to focus on positive feedback rather than perceived social criticisms. In one game players are asked to click on the one happy face among a horde of frowning faces as fast as possible. The idea is that this should help patients learn to accentuate the positive.

The researchers tried their game out on a group of telemarketers. After playing the game, the call centre staffers experienced higher self-esteem, lower cortisol and improved work performance. With its stress-reduction benefit established, the study authors expect it will help treat some forms of social anxiety, like fear of public speaking or meeting new people, and even help athletes cope with performance anxiety.

The McGill researchers have formed a company, MindHabits, to market and sell the Matrix and their MindHabits Trainer game. Patients can try and buy the games on their website (



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