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Pac-Man plus pain

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Nov 28, 2007

Somehow the threat that your mouse or gamepad might buzz feebly in your hands at any time doesn’t inspire a deep and primal fear in most gamers. Now scientists at the Wellcome Trust in London want to change that.

They are monitoring how the human brain responds to real danger by trying to get test subjects to engage in games as instinctively as they engage in real-life situations. So they created a Pac-Man style maze game for them to play with a slight catch: if they die in the game, they’re electrocuted in real life.



Above: Dude, go for the key!

Torturing students sounds like a goal in itself to us, but there’s a bonus method in the madness. Wellcome is specifically interested in how the brain works when we’re chased and attacked by a predator (in this case a red circle). How do they observe this? Have the test subjects play the game in a CAT scan.

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