Technology

Can Video Games Create A Sharper Mind?

October 23, 2013 | by Lisa Winter

Photo credit: chidsey

Video games have revolutionized society as we know it. Technology and entertainment are forever intertwined, for better or for worse. There is a growing amount of evidence to show that video games have positive effects on the brain for people of all ages and could even help slow the progression of diseases like Alzheimer’s. 

Around 10% of children have difficulties learning to read due to dyslexia. A study released earlier this year suggested that children who played a video game became better readers. This was particularly impressive, since the game involved shooting rabbits with a plunger gun, and there was not a linguistic aspect to it at all. Because dyslexia is not related to IQ or teacher instruction, researchers believe that playing the video game trains the child’s brain to focus; a valuable skill in reading.

Fast paced video games also appear to train the brain into gathering information and reacting much more quickly. Not only did the gamers have faster response times with less information, they also made better decisions than non-gamers. A separate study showed that moderate video game use can even boost brain volume

Aside from increases in multitasking and reflexes, new research shows that playing video games can benefit mood and encourage relaxation through socialization, when done in a moderate amount. The positive effects are negated when playing for long periods of time (I’d also add playing Call of Duty online with preteens or racing on Rainbow Road in Mario Kart). The scientists involved in the study suggest having a secondary rating system for video games. The traditional ratings highlight the negative aspects, such as language or violence, but a secondary system might showcase positive attributes of a game.

Video games used to be thought of as something that only young kids played, but that after playing a racing video game for only 12 hours over the course of the month, elderly test subjects saw a boost in multitasking ability for a full six months afterward. Research has shown that keeping a sharp mental edge can help stave off neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s.

While there are considerable advantages to playing video games, things are not always so black and white. The mere presence of technology is not enough to guarantee cognitive improvement; it depends on how it is used. Overindulgence can override any positive attributes. Video games may not be the key to solving every neurological problem, but it is clear that participating in gaming enhances multitasking and problem solving skills that have been shown to stave off certain neurodegenerative disease.

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