Video Games: Do they have a positive effect on the brain?

Video games are frowned upon by parents as time-wasters, and worse, some education expects think that these games corrupt the brain. Playing violent video games are easily blamed by the media and some experts say this is the reason why some young people become violent or commit extreme anti-social behaviour. But many scientists and psychologists find that video games may actually have many benefits. Many studies have actually shown increases in cognitive function after playing video games. One study in particular had percipients play super Mario 64 for 30 minutes a day over 2 months. Afterwards the brains of these participants saw an increase of grey matter in areas associated with memory, strategic planning, and fine motor skills of the hands, compared to those who had not played. These are extremely encouraging results for mental disorders which cause these brain regions to shrink; using video games as a therapy. Surprisingly action games can also increase attention to detail in individuals. Video games may actually teach children high-level thinking skills that they will need in the future. Take a look at these words in different colours; your challenge is to say the COLOUR that the word is, not the actual word (as fast as you can): easy light work blue purple red yellow green orange pink blue

It becomes more difficult because there is a conflict between the word itself and its colour. “Video games change your brain” according to university of Wisconsin psychologist c. Shawn Green. Playing video games change the brains physical structure the same way as learning to read, playing the piano, or navigating using a map. Much like exercise can build muscle, the powerful combination of concentration and rewarding surges of neurotransmitters like dopamine strengthen neural circuits that can build the brain. Chances are, if you play more than 5-10 hours of action games a week, you’re able to solve these problems much more quickly. This is because your brain is actually more efficient in the region associated with attention. When your child plays video games, it gives his/her brain a real workout. In many video games, the skills required to win involve abstract and high level thinking. These skills are not even taught at school. Some of the mental skills enhanced by video games include: 1 – following instructions, 2 – problem solving and logic – when a child plays a game such as the incredible machine, angry birds or cut the rope, he or she trains their brain to come up with creative ways to solve puzzles and other problems in short bursts. 3 – hand-eye coordination, in shooting games, the character may be running and shooting at the same time. This requires the real world player to keep track of the positon of the position of the character, where he/she is heading, their speed, where it is aiming, if the gunfire is hitting the target and so on. All these factors need to be taken into account, and then the player must then coordinate the brains interpretation and reaction with the movement in his/ her hands and fingertips. This process requires a great deal of eye-hand coordination and visual-spatial ability to be successful.

Research also suggests that people can learn iconic, spatial, and visual attention skills from video games. There have been studies with adults showing that experience with video games is related to better surgical skills. Also a reason given by experts as to why fighter pilots of today are more skilful is that this generation’s pilots are being weaned on video games. 4 – Planning, resource management and logistics. The player learns to manage resources that are limited and decide the best use of resources, the same way as in real life. This skill is honed in strategy games such as SimCity, age of empires, and railroad tycoon. Notably, the American planning association, the trade association of carbon planners and maxis, the game creators have claimed that SimCity has inspired a lot of its players to take career in carbon planning and architecture. 5 – Multitasking, simultaneous tracking of many shifting variables and managing multiple objects. In strategy games, for instance, while developing a city, and in expected surprise like an enemy might emerge, this forces the player to be flexible and quickly change tactics.

6 – Quick thinking, making fast analysis and decisions. Sometimes the player does this almost every second of the game giving the brain a real workout. Games like this require a quick thinking time / reaction time some of the games that require these are: The walking dead, Until dawn and fallout 4.  7 – memory – playing first person shooting games such as call of duty (C.O.D.) and Battlefield series enables the player to effectively judge what information should be stored in his/her working memory and what can be discarded considering the task in hand. 8 – Improved ability to rapidly and accurately recognise visual information.

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Of course video games can also be incredibly educational and while you may not be playing some of your favourite video games for this purpose, there are certainly many games that are used as effective teaching tools for both young and old. They may even help children who suffer from dyslexia, read more efficiently. In a small study, dyslexic children who played regular video games ended up reading faster and more accurately – again this relates to improved attention skills, meanwhile other studies have found improvements in eyesight not only can they see smaller details more clearly, like tiny writing, but they have an easier time differentiating levels of grey. Very practised action gamers were 58% better perceiving fine differences in contrast. Which is important as this is one of the first things to diminish with age. Even the elderly, improved memory and focus is seen. More importantly, specially designed brain teasing video games have been shown to slow the aging process of the brain by up to 7 years. This is because they are cognitively complex and require mental energy! As technology continues to transform, medicine surgeries are being completed with the inversion of cameras and remote controlling device. Not surprisingly young doctors with previous exposure to video games show a fewer errors and faster completion than those without. All of these skills are only useful if you use them; which you can’t if all you do is play video games. So do you agree that video games can actually have positive effect on the brain?

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By Romany Year 10