Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Videogames for Christmas? More reasons why this might be a good idea.

Only a little more than four weeks until Christmas. Time to think about Christmas presents again. Last year, we learned that videogames were not such a bad gift for children because they can enhance creativity. Research by Daphne Bavelier and her colleagues found videogames to be beneficial also for attention and visual thinking. In a TED Talk, she explains what they found.


Her key findings are:
  • Action gamers’ eyesight improves.
  • Video games improve our ability to track objects in the world (like we e.g. do when we are driving: other cars, pedestrians, cyclists, and so on). Video game players can keep track of more moving objects than non-players can. The original article on this was published in the journal WIREs Cognitive Science.
  • Video games can improve our mental rotation ability, and this seems to be a lasting effect. The original article on this was published in the journal Psychological Science.

The main changes in the brain caused by playing video games are in the regions that control our attention. This applies to three different brain regions that are involved in attentional processes: the parietal lobe that controls the orientation of attention, the frontal lobe that controls how we sustain attention, and the anterior cingulate that controls how we allocate attention and resolve conflict. These brain regions are much more efficient in people who play action video games. In multi-tasking tasks, they are better at switching their attention between different tasks at a very low cost.

Thus, video games seem to be beneficial for our brain fitness. However, we should bear in mind that there are other things in the world that we need for a healthy and fit brain: exercise, social contacts, a job. But sitting in front of the computer playing video games a few hours every week is maybe not such a bad thing to do. The next question to come up is: which games are good? Daphne Bavelier said that different games have different effects on our brains. So more research will have to be done. But we will try to keep you updated. For now, we wish you success with finding the right Christmas presents for your loved ones!

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