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Harnessing the Power of Video Games

A growing number of video games are being designed with health-related applications. Now, commercial publishers are getting in on the action

A stopwatch and a tub of frigid ice water are the standard tools medical researchers use to test pain tolerance. How long can a person keep his arm submerged? In an unusual project, last year researchers at the University of Maryland's medical center used the arm-in-ice water test to evaluate a new video game called Free Dive.

The researchers found that their subjects—60 children, ranging in age from 5 to 12—were able to keep an arm submerged for about 19 seconds on average. If, however, they simultaneously played Free Dive on a PC with their dry hand, the kids could tolerate an average of 86 seconds in the icy liquid—an increase of more than 400%.