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28.11.12

Video games give kids dementia?

PANIC.

As much as I enjoy silly people, I really dislike jumping on the silly person bandwagon here but I feel compelled to counter nonsense with real sense.

As Vaughan Bell over at mindhacks has repeatedly noted, Baroness Greenfield of Oxford likes to turn to the press to talk about how video games, the internet, and other generally fun things are ruining the brains of our children.

In response, Ben Goldacre has made a simple request of the Baroness: publish your findings in a peer-reviewed study.

This has yet to happen.

Over the years many reasonable, intelligent, knowledgeable, practicing scientists like Vaughan, Ben, Dorothy Bishop, NeuroSkeptic, Dean Burnett, and others have tried to counter the Baroness's claims through appeal, humor, sarcasm, etc.

But the Baroness keeps making public claims to the media such as, "Several scientific studies have suggested that playing an excessive number of computer games or spending too much time surfing the internet can have a physical impact on the brain," with the implication that this change is bad.

But truth is better than fear, and neuroscientist Daphne Bavelier recounts almost a decade of her research regarding the effects of action video games on the brain and cognition in her recent TED talk. Yes, they change the brain. But this change can be good (edit: softened the language here from "is good", since this is a complex issue).

The reality? Action video games, such as first-person shooters, improve attention, visual perception, cognitive control, and a host of other executive functions. This research began with a accidental finding by C. Shawn Green that he and his video-game playing friends were performing much better on attention tasks than non video game playing control subjects. This culminated in their 2004 Nature paper, "Action video game modifies visual selective attention". Since then their research has progressed quite well.

And is peer-reviewed.

Dr. Bavelier gives a fantastic talk, and it's one that I've added to my now-growing list of good neuroscience TED talks.

Watch the video below to see the real scientific evidence regarding the effects of video games on the brain. I'd love to know what evidence the Baroness's has to counter.



ResearchBlogging.org
Green, C., & Bavelier, D. (2003). Action video game modifies visual selective attention Nature, 423 (6939), 534-537 DOI: 10.1038/nature01647