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Games Entertainment Science

Videogames Affect Your Brain 98

ozmm writes "A story on GameSpot explains the concept of 'mirror neurons.' When we shoot a gun, certain neurons fire in our brain. When we see someone else shoot a gun, even a video game character, the exact same neurons fire. How do virtual reactions affect our lives and thoughts? This short but sweet article touches on all of this and more." From the article: "We can tell if someone is watching a television by the way that person is facing it--even if we can't see or hear if the television is even on. It also means that we can experience the mental states associated with actions without ever having to perform those actions. In video games, in particular, it's like we're automatically empathizing with what is happening on the screen as if we were the video game characters ourselves. If you've ever had a particularly heart-palpitating race in Burnout, surely you can relate."
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Videogames Affect Your Brain

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2006 @01:21PM (#14651735)
    ...Jack Thompson orgasms.
  • by SIGALRM ( 784769 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @01:22PM (#14651739) Journal
    The science behind mirror neuron study is advancing an understanding of how humans and animals learn complex tasks. Ramachandran talks about the intelligence of the octopus in learning to open jars from watching another. The mirror neuron firing is intense and highly measurable in this species.
    • Seriously...I've been here two point five years and this guy has been on every diet to make the tabloid rack at the supermarket. He keeps gaining weight, though. I tried to explain to him that, first and foremost, if your caloric intake exceeds your caloric expenditure in a given period, you aren't ever going to lose weight, regardless of your choice of foods. He doesn't believe me, or anyone else that tries to explain it to him. "The book said I can eat all the meat I want!"

      That being said, he used t

  • More links between violent video games and violent youth... yada yada yada.

    Luckily for us, shooting a gun is perfectly legal. I can goto any range in the area and squeze off a few rounds. Now, what would really be interesting is if it is the same nuerons (and only the same) that fire when someone shoots a gun intending to kill some one.

    • Funny. Most liberals would call Jack Thompson a conservative freak. After all, it is the conservatives that like to snoop on Americans and restrict their rights. Won't anybody think of the children?
      • Won't anybody think of the children?

        Do you mean the children Tipper Gore was seeking to protect with the PMRC? The children that Bill Clinton was protecting backing the V-chip? The children that Democrat senators are protecting by introducing anti-video game legislation?

        Don't think that conservatives have a strangle hold on snooping on Americans and restricting rights.
      • Jack Thompson is a man of conservative morals. But he wants legislative changes, which makes him a political liberal. Which means that he is the type of person you never want to be in power.

        • So... the laws we have now are perfect, and you wouldn't want anybody in office who would ever want to change any of them? And only liberals try to change laws? And you're smoking what?
          • I am NOT saying I am liberal or conservative or republican or democratic. What I'm saying is the terms liberal and conservative can mean many different things.

            Someone who is (politically) conservative doesn't want change. These are the people who will defend the constitution and depend on legal precedence. (IOW, these people make good supreme court justices).

            Someone who is (politically) liberal wants change. These are the people who see the problems with the current situation and want to correct it. (IOW, t
            • Where are you getting these definitions?
              • Definitions of conservative on the Web:

                * resistant to change
                * opposed to liberal reforms
                * cautious: avoiding excess; "a conservative estimate"
                * a person who has conservative ideas or opinions

                Definitions of liberal on the Web:

                * broad: showing or characterized by broad-mindedness; "a broad political stance"; "generous and broad sympathies"; "a liberal newspaper"; "to
                • Fair enough. Seems strange though because it defines the two in terms of what they want compared to what exists now. By some of those definitions, someone advocating changing our laws to be simpler, with smaller government and less regulation would be considered liberal (favoring reform and progress), and those on the opposite side conservative (resistant to change). However, I think that's the opposite of how people think of themselves - that is, those favoring such reforms generally consider themselves
                  • Do some reading on both classical liberalism and classical conservatism.

                    Originally liberalism meant ensuring the individual had as much freedom as possible. This includes the respionsibilty for your choices both good and bad. Modern liberalism seeks to minimize the individuals choice, and to replace it with what the "educated elites" in government decide are the proper choices.

                    E.G. firearm ownership and self-defense bad, involuntary redistribution of wealth (social security) good.

                    Modern conservatism does th
                • Original definition of Liberal [wikipedia.org].

                  "Classical liberalism focuses on concepts of individual autonomy and private property, and argues that the sole legitimate function of government is to defend these."

                  "Modern liberalism tends to deviate from this definition of the term "liberal" in that it espouses the use of the power of government to achieve a variety of desirable goals, ranging from social justice to economic equality."

                  The first is Liberal as in Liberty oriented. The second is Authoritarian.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        When will you numbskulls wake up. Those who are actualyl controlling things behind the scenes are playing conservatives and liberals like decks of cards.

        Odd how both groups can feel justified accusing each other of the same thing, no?
    • Yeah seriously, what the sibling post said, we're the ones fighting YOU guys from stopping us from having fun, by very definition liberal means someone who supports liberties, that is, not abridging ones rights
    • Right, liberals like Jack Thompson or the American Family Association. Or all the Christian groups against violent games. Sigh. If anything this is an issue that spans ideology and I'd keep my eye on the conservatives as they're the ones in power right now.
      • Seriously, they aren't taking the rights from anyone who is over 18. Do you think that a 16 year-old should be able to buy latest GTA? Liberals like to play to the young so that they can recruit them at a young age.

        I was in the mall and saw an poster ad by the Ad Council and it was a picture of a female teenager walking in the mall and in the background there was a sign on the clothing store that said "you must be 18 to buy clothes in this store." ant he caption on the photo said to the effect that you ne
  • by ForCripeSake ( 932432 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @01:26PM (#14651780)
    After playing Mario 64 for 11 hours I totally empathized with the headache resulting from Mario's brick breaking antics.
  • Ummm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Golias ( 176380 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @01:26PM (#14651788)
    When we see someone else shoot a gun, even a video game character, the exact same neurons fire.

    So that makes watching a movie different from playing a game... how?
    • Re:Ummm... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dasheiff ( 261577 )
      More importainly, should it be illegal to watch someone shoot a gun in real life?
    • In the game, they're shooting at *you*! And *you* have the ability to save your character's ass by shooting back.

      In a movie, you're living more vicariously through the characters, and you don't have any control over their actions. Except maybe screaming at the screen "They're right behind you!"
      • In the game, they're shooting at *you* ... In a movie... you don't have any control over their actions.

        And according to the article, the same neurons fire in your brain whether you are doing or watching, so there's no real difference.
  • by Gulthek ( 12570 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @01:27PM (#14651792) Homepage Journal
    I have had some particularly exciting races in Burnout to Burnout:Revenge. I can conclusively say that I'm *not* experiencing what the videogame character would feel (pure terror followed by death and dismemberment) but rather excitment.

    Also I've fired a gun, and I've played Quake. I get two very different feelings from both. Perhaps their test subjects weren't "used" to gaming and thus less able to separate the fantasy from the reality?
  • Rampant speculation? Check.
    Pseudoscientific Terms? Check.
    Pictures of Latest Games? Check.

    Complete Lack Of Hard Data Whatsoever? Check.

    Congradulations audience. YHJBT.
    • How is this, WHATSOEVER, related to ID stuff? I don't personally believe in ID as being presented (although I do believe in God), but this has nothing whatsoever to do with this topic. I don't know how this got modded +5, unless it was as Offtopic?
      • How is this, WHATSOEVER, related to ID stuff?

        Please try reading the subject of the comment: "ID'ers Eat Your Heart Out" If you knew what "eat your heart out" meant, perhaps you would be enlightened. I suggest looking it up.

        I don't personally believe in ID as being presented (although I do believe in God), but this has nothing whatsoever to do with this topic.

        Ohhhhh, NOW I see where you're coming from. You thought someone might be attacking you, and you had to reply.

        • Oh, so you're saying something so amazingly insightful, like:

          See, here's someone else making a stupid argument

          Is that right?

          If so, it still doesn't need to be said. I could just as equally said: "Solipsists eat your heart out!" or "Matrix-fighters eat your heart out!" or "Slashdot Readers who think they have girlfriends, eat your heart out!*" All with the same meaning.

          My point stands clear and unscathed: The comment is still flame-bait, trying to involve religious politics to a topic that requi
          • Listen, just about everyone here already considers the ID'ers irredeemably stupid. The goal of the original post wasn't to try and rub their noses in it. It was to say, "Look, this article is so poorly thought out that it shows strong parallels with already established idiocy on the level of ID! That's how awful this rubbish is!"

            The ID stuff wasn't the goal of the post, it was just a point of reference.
          • The point is that you shouldn't be so butt-hurt/sensitive. ID'ers do seem to have no grasp on logic whatsoever. The comment was pointing out the parallel which was entirely valid. The fact that you are offended that someone else would bring up the ID'ers suggests that you have more sympathy for them than your prior comment would suggest on its face.
            • drinky, I see what you're saying. I do. But I still don't think the way to change people's minds when they're wrong is by slapping them. I tend to think that intelligent conversation is much more useful/important than pointing and laughing. So I'm offended by ignorant people on both sides.
              • So I'm offended by ignorant people on both sides.

                The purpose of the original post was, in part, to draw parallels between the pseudoscience of ID and this article linking violence to video games.

                If you're offended by this, then quite frankly, that offends me.

                I'm tired of persistent ID'ers and their vacuous refrains. We're not going to listen to your asinine diatribes without pointing out that they are in fact asinine. Fundamentalism is an evil, evil thing.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Slash-tard posting anti-ID message in a thread which has nothing to do with ID? Check.

    • Does some jackass have to bring up an Intelligent Design straw man troll in every damn discussion now?
  • KIds with ADHD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by scenestar ( 828656 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @01:29PM (#14651823) Homepage Journal
    I myself have a really bad case of ADHD. before i was diagnosed to have ADHD I used to play videogames for about 3 to 5 hours a day. This actually helped me build up concentration and teach me to focuss due to the postive (1 up) and negative (game over) feedback that the games gave me.

    This is the same concept that modern neurofeedback treatment uses.
    • Re:KIds with ADHD (Score:3, Informative)

      by TubeSteak ( 669689 )
      This is the same concept that modern neurofeedback treatment uses.Not quite.

      I'm not sure which neurofeeback techniques you're specifically talking about, but I'm going to assume it's the type where they strap sensors to your head to measure your brainwaves.

      That technique works because it teaches you to directly manage your neural state. The use of games is a quick and easy way to make the system palatable for children.

      They could just as easily show you what they want your brainwave to look like, show you yo
      • Adults have been using the "lets play a game" trick for years. "Lets play a game. Who can clean up their side of the room the fastest!" I cringe at how naive I used to be.

        Hah! You say that because you always finished in second place, loser! :P
        • GP:Adults have been using the "lets play a game" trick for years. "Lets play a game. Who can clean up their side of the room the fastest!" I cringe at how naive I used to be.

          P:Hah! You say that because you always finished in second place, loser! :P

          That's correct - speed cleaning is a completely different sport than proper cleaning. Speed Cleaning just plops things into nearby shelves without organization (thus displacing the mess elsewhere), and Proper Cleaning has a neat organizational pattern that is

      • It's funny what competitions can work. "I just put your baby brother to bed and I'll bet he can go to sleep before you." "No he won't!" *snore*
    • As Steven Johnson points out in his book "Everything Bad is Good For You," the connection between video games and cognition (particularly conditions like ADHD) is a lot more complicated than the mainstream media makes it out to be. Then again, what isn't.

      Michael Posner has developed a "game-like" interactive training scheme that has been shown to increase some measurements of working memory and increase nonverbal IQ scores. Other researchers (Cogmed) have followed suit, even going so far as to manufactu

  • Brainwaves (Score:4, Interesting)

    by steveo777 ( 183629 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @01:30PM (#14651830) Homepage Journal
    A long time ago, I read about a study that showed brainwave patterns for watching normal TV (non-interactive, like soap operas and commercials) was the same as staring at a fire. These brainwaves were pretty close to that of time periods of sleep when the brain is only running the body on survival. The only difference was when something on the TV was thought-provocing.

    At least when we fire a gun in a video game we have some thought pattern. I'd like to see this study done on people grinding levels in WoW or another MMORPG. I know my brain isn't waving when I'm grinding. Kill... grab stuff... skin... grab stuff... heal... kill.. ...

  • wow (Score:1, Funny)

    by Wisgary ( 799898 )
    so that's why porn is so awesome
  • After some long term gaming sessions, I find myself looking around suddenly when I hear noises that sounded vaguely like something threatening from the game. This once happened to me at a library after playing way too much Quake 2.
  • by igibo ( 726664 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @01:34PM (#14651896)
    Of COURSE videogames affect your brain. During the Tetris craze of the late 80's I would not only DREAM Tetris, I would DAY dream Tetris. I distinctly recall sitting in various highschool classes, staring up at the ceiling, and "playing" Tetris with the drop-ceiling tiles!

    And, yes, before anyone asks, I DID have the high-score.

  • What? (Score:2, Funny)

    by AntiDragon ( 930097 )
    Utter garbage! Playing Doom for 9 hours a day all of the last 12 years hasn't had any effect on me! ....Oohh, someones at my door. Sorry people - I gotta go get my chainsaw. ...Hmm...looks like I need a bigger freezer too...ho hum...
  • ... if any at all?!? ;-)
  • Excuse me? (Score:4, Funny)

    by HTH NE1 ( 675604 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @02:02PM (#14652238)
    "Videogames Affect Your Brain"

    Unless you're already brain dead, doesn't every stimulus affect your brain in some way?
  • I do not feel any emotive reaction when I am shot dead in any Enemy Territory or Quake, but I have quite a deep depression when loosing battle in Globulation-2 or Warzone 2100. Perhaps I should start a politician career to lead my nation for victories...
  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @02:14PM (#14652365) Journal
    While they talk about mirror neurons and super mirror neurons, it's telling that they use "a particularly heart-palpitating race in Burnout" as their example.

    What's going on in Burnout isn't just neurons firing, you've also got hormones pumping.

    Hormones are the reason that simulators are only so effective. When I skid out on ice during a driving game, I don't panic and think "Oh SHIT! I'm gonna die." In real life, even if I don't get hit with a flood of chemicals at the moment I fucked up, afterwards, my body & brain will practically be awash with them.

    Simulations & games don't have real consequences and for the most part, your brain and body knows the difference.
  • will wrapping ur head in tinfoil help?

    lol i was around slashdot for too long as well
  • Will people who played pac man, enjoy dark places with blinking colors while hearing buzz music and eating pills. Oh wait...
  • Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by venicebeach ( 702856 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @02:24PM (#14652465) Homepage Journal
    I do research on mirror neurons... I work with Marco Iacoboni who is quoted in the article. I also play WoW.

    One question that is not yet answered is just how realistic a computer generated movement has to be to engage the mirror neuron system, and what properties of the movement our motor neurons really pay attention to. Much of the research on mirror neurons focuses on reaching and grasping movements (since these are important to monkeys where the data were first recorded). Those kinds of things tend to be pretty poorly implemented in computer games in my experience, while gross movements like walking and running seem pretty convincing.

    It would be an interesting study to compare mirror neuron activity while watching live actors to watching computer generated avatars. You would probably get more activity in gamers who are familiar with the virtual movements.
  • It's obvious that video games affect people's brains. Every experience shapes our world view. In other news: Breathing affects our lungs.

    I remember playing Doom as a kid and being startled by imps or the growl of a pink beast coming up behind me. That doesn't mean that in the real world I'm going to be tricked by my brain into thinking there is an actual imp coming to get me if I hear a screech in the distance. It's the same as reading. When I read a Star Trek book, I'm not in the 24th Century, but a b
  • by 0311 ( 796591 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @03:07PM (#14652931) Journal
    I served in the Marine Corps reserve as a squad leader in a LAR company (Charlie Co., 4th LAR, 4th MARDIV, 1994-2002). I have trained in every skill the LAR scouts are tested on. I have worked with miles gear, planned and led training in combat, security and recon patrols in the mountains, in urban and desert environments; I have called for fire for mortar, artillery and air strikes. All in training. I have also played FPS games and let me tell you, nothing about it is the same. Throw on a flak vest, kevlar and 30-60 lbs. of gear, ammo and food, then lead your fellow Marines into 90+ degree weather on a 2000 meter patrol route through mountainous terrain, culminating in a full-on assault on a motorized pop-up target range. In gas masks. And that's just training. Never been to combat, myself. Tell me, which part of that is similar to sitting on your lazy butt in your living room, waggling your fingers and thumbs? None of it? Good Answer!! There are so many elements to armed combat that lead up to the possibility of pulling the trigger that comparing the two seems ludricrous to me. If videogames were anything like the real thing then in an FPS you would only be shooting a minute or two out of every hour. When your FPS game comes with 120 lbs of gear, a couple of cases of ammo, a rifle, some uniforms and five months of military, physical and combat training, then you can start making comparisons. Or you could simply join the Marines. If you could hack it. Maybe, on 2nd thought, you are better off in your living room.
    • It's acceptance of the reality.

      Or more precisely, creating a population which will be inclined to accept a certain type of reality.

      People hanker for the real world to fit what they think their brains are wired for. It's a subconscious drive. Once that reality is achieved, it hardly matters if there are discrepancies between reality and the simulator/mind-programming systems; Bush and his elitist friends are still getting rich in signing billions of dollars in weapons contracts.


    • Totally agree with you, although I don't have your insight. And even when it comes to shooting, I don't see what aiming with a crosshair with your mouse has to do anything with holding an actual gun, let alone operating it, you can play as many FPS's as you like, you still won't know how to operate a gun, besides pulling the trigger, provided that that's all it takes to shoot.

      A FPS player's two cents

  • This article reminds me of Moliè's doctor who explained the soporific effect of morphine through its "dormitive effect". In particular I refer to the sentence:

    what it suggests is that we have in our brains some mechanism that may induce some form of immediate behavior..."

    We know very little about the workings of the human brain. We do have some high level models which don't tell us much more than folk psychology. And we have some detailed low level models. But we don't really have the tools to con

  • Autism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by millennial ( 830897 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @05:25PM (#14654311) Journal
    Scientists have also linked mirror neurons to autism. It has been suggested that in the autistic brain, mirror neurons are either absent or in short supply. Mirror neurons fire off a signal whenever we see another person exhibiting any signs of emotion or stress, so it makes sense that they would fire off whenever we see a character doing something we would consider stressful. It's part of what helps us be part of a larger community of empathic beings. This explains why mirror neurons are linked to autism: Autistic people often have great difficulty understanding the emotions and motives of others, and thus seem entirely alien and separate to most non-autistic people. It also explains why some people cried when Aeris died :)
  • So you mean to tell me that the fast analysis response neurons in the fusiform gyrus actually learn and respond when you're playing a game which just might require fast intuitive response?

    Blimey! I'd never have guessed that.

    Mirror neurons are used to make split-second judgements. They're behind what most people call "intuition" or "gut feeling". And you make those decisions in less than a second - incredibly well, surprisingly.

    Go read the book Blink! - it's full of information about how this system works.
  • No they don't! *searches around frantically for a "Cancel" button*

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972