The Gaming Brain

Scientific American’s online edition has an article touching on the study I previously blogged in which videogames were observed to improve vision. The article is a nice contrast to much of the game journalism coverage of the research, and gives me an opportunity to briefly revisit this topic.

Obviously, we know that games can teach information or hone motor skills – but there isn’t a lot of research around games and brain plasticity.

This article has a nice point calling out the lack of good research in this area (I’m looking at you, Brain Age.):

To date, much of the claims around this rapidly growing area of technology-supported medical interventions are insufficiently supported by scientific data.

(I have since found a study examining the effect of videogames upon memory and thinking skills in the elderly – using Boom Blox.)

Out of a number of online mentions of this research that I have seen, this article comes closest to referencing Steven Johnson‘s book “Everything Bad Is Good For You”. Perhaps I have just missed the articles that make the logical connection.

It also amuses me to see a study showing that playing Call Of Duty 2 or Unreal Tournament 2004 is in any measurable sense “better” than playing The Sims 2.

In other news, it seems that Dr. Richard Haier is still researching with Tetris. Dr. Haier did some of the original brain research with Tetris back in 1992 (two publications: one in Intelligence, another in Brain Research). In 2009, Dr. Haier did some new research involving Tetris while acting as a consultant to Blue Planet Software. MSNBC has a brief interview with Dr. Haier. Wired has another writeup on the research. (I would be remiss if I didn’t include a link to a certain someone declaring themselves as a Gameboy Tetris purist: “Tetris on the Gameboy…only.”)

I’ll close with another link I had lying around: scientists studying mice brains by using Quake 2.

Update, March 2010: Another bit of research on Tetris and PTSD.

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