Hot on HuffPost Tech:

See More Stories
AOL Tech

Scientists Use Pac-Man Game to Study Fear



After initial trials with gamers (mostly involving stimulant abuse, sleep deprivation, and homophobic slurs) failed to produce any significant results, scientists are now using a Pac-Man-like computer game to better understand how the brain reacts to imminent danger.

Essentially, the scans show how the subjects used different regions of their brains as the level of "threat" in the game increased over time. It works via electric shock: As they move their blue triangle through a 2D maze, players must avoid the red dot "predator" (Halo 3 this is not, apparently). If the predator catches the triangle, the volunteer receives an electric shock.

The scientists found that as long as the predator was some distance away, blood flowed most strongly to the prefrontal cortex in the forebrain-active during periods of anxiety, and helps coordinate escape strategies to avoid the threat, he said. When the predator moved nearer, blood flow switched to the midbrain, which controls gut-level reflexes such as fight or flight.

So, what have we learned today? "We are probably better survival machines now," said Dean Mobbs, on of the study's authors.

From the BBC

Related Links:


Tags: Pac-Man, Research

Add your comments

Please keep your comments relevant to this blog entry. Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments.

When you enter your name and email address, you'll be sent a link to confirm your comment, and a password. To leave another comment, just use that password.

To create a live link, simply type the URL (including http://) or email address and we will make it a live link for you. You can put up to 3 URLs in your comments. Line breaks and paragraphs are automatically converted — no need to use <p> or <br /> tags.