Brains, Games and Chocolate Broccoli

A debate has raged for some time about whether or not video games have an effect on the brain. The media has often branded video games as ‘bad’ but is there any actual evidence of this? What do neuroscientists say? The journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience posed a number of questions to experts in this field in 2011. As with many things in neuroscience the answer is not yes or no, it is more complicated than that. Below is a TED talk given by Daphne Bavelier in 2012 and it is an excellent discussion of the positives of video games and the possible uses of video games in the future.

Additional points

It should be noted that ‘video games’ is a very general term that covers a variety of interactive media. If one video game is found to have an effect on the brain it does not mean that all video games have the same effect. Similarly, the effect that a game has on one person is not necessarily the effect it will have on another. People, particularly parents, quite reasonably request answers about how video games affect us, but the issue is not black and white; video games sit firmly in the grey area; it all depends on the type of game, the person and what aspects of brain power and behaviour are being discussed.

“Violent ‘Action’ Games”

This is the type of game that Daphne Bavelier discusses in her talk above. This type of game is often highlighted by the media as being particularly bad. These games are often first person shooter (fps) and depict war and death, sometimes graphically. Invariably, these games are sold with warnings regarding their content but it is not uncommon for young children to play them. These games have, therefore, been the subject of research.

 

Links

TED blog – 7 talks on the benefits of gaming

Bavelier lab site

Bavelier, D. et al. (2011). Brains on Video Games. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 12, 763-768

The November 2011 ‘NeuroPod’ podcast from Nature also has some discussion of the topic

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