Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Your Brain on Games.

Your Brain on Games.
Do mobile and video games help or hurt your brain? What’s the truth?
By J. Cotter, honors graduate of Duke University.

Earlier this week I played a new iPhone game introduced to me by a friend who works in the health care industry. I was surprised she had the time to play the game with her busy schedule. ‘It improves my fine motor skills and takes my mind off the day,’ she said. She didn’t realize that I had been thinking about the effect of games on the brain for almost ten years. My day-to-day work includes producing mobile games. As the producer of the Image IQ iPhone app you may have played, it’s my imperative to understand how games impact the brain.

As you’re reading this article, keep in mind your voice is important. Share what you think about the subject in the comments section at the end of the article. What effect have you noticed that games have on you? If you have questions, I’m happy to reply to your posts. I also encourage you to share this article with friends to see what they think.

You certainly have heard it before – video games make our youth more violent, and are addicting wastes of time. But what effect do games really have on our brains?

Researchers are discovering that video and mobile games can have a number of positive effects on the brain. Boosts in memory, decision-making, and creativity have been demonstrated. Even surgeons have benefited from increased hand-eye coordination after playing videogames.

A federally-funded study of 491 middle school students that lasted three years found that the more children played computer games the higher they scored on a standardized test of creativity—regardless of race, gender, or the kind of game played. And according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, people who played action-based video and computer games made decisions 25% faster than others without sacrificing accuracy.

Are there downsides to videogames? Certain games carry potential risks, like many activities. Violent videogames can “depress activity among regions associated with emotional control,” according to the brain scans used by researchers at Indiana University. So an excessive dose of violent videogames is certainly not healthy.

One must keep in mind that brain health is also affected by other factors such as exercise, sleep, and nutrition, among other factors. To see the effect that sleep has on your brain, get the guide on Amazon:
The Concise Guide to Better Sleep in 10 Steps (you can read it on your phone, tablet, or computer with the free Kindle app).

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In a study conducted by members of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Stanford University, an increase in human brain activity was found between those playing interactive games versus passive activities. See the MRI scans below.

Image Credit: The peer-reviewed scientific journal PLoS ONE

Closing thought: I'm glad some things we enjoy have benefits! Cheers to those I have played games with in my life - my brother Neils, the first person I played with (w/ a friendly dose of competitive roughhousing), and to my father who recently picked up gaming. And to all my friends who I have played video games with in recent years (Michael Stoppelman, Thianh Lu, Chris Vale, Jon Grall, and the Union club crew (TJ, Alex, Austin, Max who I have played with).