Monday, July 13, 2015


The debate about video gaming and the impact it has on our minds and out youth is far from concluded. Technology has its effects on all of us.

A few stats:
  • In Canada the age of the average gamer is 35.8,; the United States, the average gamer is 30 ; in the UK, it’s 35. As the kids who grew up playing Nintendo and Sega Genesis get all grown-up and continue playing, the average age will only grow. 62% of gamers are adults. 29% of gamers are over the age of 55.
  • 45% of US gamers are female.
  • 58% of Americans play games.

Can video games (Tetris, Candy Crush) and logic puzzles play a role in reducing memories that create severe trauma like war, sexual assault and torture?

Research published by a group of scientists out of Cambridge appears to show that playing Tetris assists the way the mind works in blocking flashbacks that create post-traumatic stress disorder.

There are effective treatments for people who are diagnosed with PTSD, but nothing currently exists to help prevent people from developing it in the days and weeks after the initial trauma.  

Emily Holmes at the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Camvridge believes there is a window of about six hours, after any traumatic,where memories are consolidated and cemented in the mind. She says playing Tetris after an incident can reduce the strength and frequency of traumatic flashbacks.

New Scientist reports that two control groups were exposed to video footage of distressing events. A day later the group was exposed to still images designed to reactivate their memories of the events depicted on the video. Half the group went on to play Tetris for 12 minutes. 

Over the next week tests showed that the Tetris group experienced 51 per cent fewer intrusive memories than the group that hadn’t. 

The why's are less clear but Holmes thinks visual processing forms a "cognitive blockage" that dulls the strength of the trauma images in that six hour window while memory is malleable.  

She is already testing her hypothesis on accident victims in hospital emergency rooms.

Can video games keep your brain fit like exercise keeps your body in good shape? A 2010 study published in the journal Nature included 11,430 men and women between the ages of 18 and 60 who were randomly assigned to one of three online brain exercise programs. The study did not produce any real day to day advantages outside of the memory and attention improved for the material covered.

Just playing games that require concentration may not help your recall and appointments but you can exercise the mind to ensure it stays sharp by thinking creatively, problems solving and engaging in activities like reading, playing games doing crossword puzzles and learning how to do new things.

You need to be dedicated, science is not quite at the point, like with our bodies, where we can pop a pill or light up a computer screen and heal the mind or the body.

The battle between competing studies on the impact of video games on children learning, health and social skills continues to wage.  Despite the view that video games make us intellectually lazy, more prone to depression, addiction, being a loner and aggression - new studies show  play  may strengthen cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception - problem solving skills! They also help young people deal with failure, learn to cooperate and how to lead.

Another study found that lifetime video gaming history (called “joystick years”) was associated with increased brain volume in areas linked to navigation and visual attention; logic/puzzle games and platformers (like Super Mario) had the strongest effects.

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