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Games Idle Science

Study Finds Frequent Gaming Changes Your Brain 171

Coolhand2120 writes "Gamers always felt they had more grey matter. The LA Times reports there is now proof: 'Fourteen-year-olds who were frequent video gamers had more gray matter in the rewards center of the brain than peers who didn't play video games as much — suggesting that gaming may be correlated to changes in the brain much as addictions are. European scientists reported the discovery Tuesday in the journal Translational Psychiatry. Psychologist Simone Kuhn of Ghent University in Belgium and colleagues recruited 154 healthy 14-year-olds in Berlin and divided them into two groups. Twenty-four girls and 52 boys were frequent gamers who played at least nine hours of video games each week. Fifty-eight girls and 20 boys were infrequent gamers, who played less than nine hours a week. Structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed differences in the test subjects' brains. Frequent gamers had more gray matter in a portion of the brain known as the left ventral striatum, which affects the interplay of emotions and behavior. Previous research identified striatal function as a 'core candidate promoting addictive behavior.'"
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Study Finds Frequent Gaming Changes Your Brain

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  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @08:08PM (#38080534) Homepage Journal

    Ever find yourself in a public place, like a mall or stadium and the little thought flashes through your mind, "I just need the really big gun and I could clear this place out." or "I wonder how much gold I could get clearing this place out" Fortunately some little sanity barrier prevents you.

    Found ideas like that in my mind after epic gaming sessions. Don't play those kinds of games now so those thoughts haven't popped up in years. I hope they're gone for good, I didn't like the idea I could even visualise something like those thoughts.

    Now I wonder how much wood I need, with that port near by, to build another settlement.

  • Sampling Problem? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RobinEggs ( 1453925 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @08:11PM (#38080574)
    So the survey included twice as many boys as girls in the treatment group, and three times as many girls as boys in the control group?

    That seems like a serious flaw. Men are widely considered more impulsive and more likely to have addiction problems in general, both in popular perception and in some research results. What if men's brains simply respond more to games and other dopamine-related activities (i.e. potentially addictive stuff) than women's?

    I hate to be that guy who asks a possibly moronic, self-congratulatory question about sample size, basic method, etc., but I still think it's hard to statistically control the basic differences between men and women with such massively skewed gender samplings.
  • by dingen ( 958134 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @08:22PM (#38080706)

    I was playing a lot of Red Dead Redemption when that came out a while back. One day during that time, I was driving to work and stopped for petrol on the way. Two young, shabby-looking foreign tourists approached me and asked for a lift. I wasn't going where they wanted to go, so that didn't work out. But I also noticed they weren't planning their trip very well because I saw them using an awful crappy small map, which didn't include the required detail to really plan a decent route to begin with. So I went into the shop to pay for my petrol and I bought a decent map of the area along with it, which included both the current location and the place they told me they were looking to go to. Before returning to my vehicle, I handed the hitchhikers the map, which I hoped would help them out a little bit. Now you have to understand, I am not the kind of person who would do such a thing regularly. I don't think I'm a mean person or anything, but I'm no saint for sure. I don't help out random strangers on a regular basis, if at all. But after handing over the map, I was thinking to myself: "This will really boost my honor!", which is one of the primary game mechanics in RDR, rewarding the player for decent behaviour in the game world. After realizing my frequent playing of the game might have actually manipulated me into doing some good in real life, I came to the conclusion that maybe frequent gaming isn't such a bad thing per se.

    This is a true story, I swear.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @08:41PM (#38080934)

    i wish i can grep, less, awk, search in real life.

  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @09:08PM (#38081158) Homepage
    You know, there are people who would have done that without thinking at all about a video game. Heck, they would have gone out of their way to see that the foreigners arrived at their destination safely. I grew up among them in Texas.

    Why do you feel it's necessary to assure everyone you wouldn't have done such a thing normally? Doesn't that make you feel the sting of shame?

  • by Ocker3 ( 1232550 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @09:10PM (#38081176)
    I think it all depends on the kinds of game you play, and how you play them. After playing World War II Online (MMO FPS) a LOT, I used to hear panzers in the distance when walking around the city. In the game, ATGs and infantry, even other tanks (when your commander's hatch was open) were paranoid about hearing other tanks coming, so you could either hide or ambush them. Sometimes I do feel like pulling out a game's gun and just wasting an entire area full of people, but it's usually because I'm unhappy/frustrated and want to blow off steam. Mostly I just wish people would get out of my way on the roads, so I can get to where I'm going. I don't wish I had a bazooka to blow them up like when I was a kid, I just wish they'd Move!
  • by znerk ( 1162519 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @09:20PM (#38081266)

    After months of spending hours on IRC as an adolescent, I found myself wishing "real" (spoken) conversation had a scroll-back buffer... does that count?

  • by 9jack9 ( 607686 ) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @12:20AM (#38082344)

    > How does frequent gaming affect people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, etc.?

    I can answer that for someone ~50.

    At times, I've spent 60-80 hours a week playing games, back in my 20s, 30s, and 40s. It can be done. There are 168 hours in a week. If you work 40, that leaves 128. Assume 10-20 hours for eating, commuting, calling for pizza. That leaves 108. If you sleep 6 hours a night that's still 70 hours left. If you trim a few hours of sleep, or take a take a day off from work, you can get near 80. I would binge on a game for a few months then give it up. A year or two later I'd do it again.

    At 60-80 hours a week, whatever you're playing becomes reality, or pretty darn close to it. I used to play DragonRealms. Awesome game. There were a few months where that's where I lived. Even if I were walking around the real world I was playing in my head. Reality was a gray pale lifeless place.

    I tried rationing. Turns out for me it's not much fun a few hours a week. YMMV. But for me, if I'm not all in, it's just not as much fun.

    Mostly I stay clean these days. Mostly . . . .

  • by dingen ( 958134 ) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @12:32AM (#38082412)
    I'm just saying the effects of frequent gaming aren't all bad. You're trying to spin that to "you need a video game to get your morale compass straight, because normal non-gamers are all good samaritans". I don't get that. I don't think it's true either, because those two hitchhikers were standing there at the gas station for a few hours at least by the looks of it and apparently nobody helped them out, as they were still trying to figure out how to get around using their crappy little map. And either way, even if it is true that most people are natural inclined to go out of their way to help everyone they encounter, but I'm some horrible human being who isn't like that... What's wrong about me becoming a little nicer to my fellow man because of a game I played? Why do you feel it is needed to point out that that's a sad thing?
  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @04:43AM (#38083216)

    and sometimes sed

    And occasionally "init 6"

  • by Terrasque ( 796014 ) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @07:05AM (#38083754) Homepage Journal

    When I was taking driving lessions, we had some training for slippery roads. Which involved driving an obstacle course on an oiled road.. The obstacles were some human-like dolls that was hanging from some crane-like system.

    In that period, I was also playing Carmageddon 2 a lot. It had fun open-world'ish levels, and pretty good car physics for that time. And it was fun :) I've also played OutRun a lot earlier, and some Need for Speed too.

    So, I was driving down the track, and the obstacles were moved in via remote control. The car started to slip, and .. the best way to describe it is that it felt like some switch flipped over in my mind, and my thinking went something like this : "Obstacle 1 and 2, mapped out in a 3d overview of that part of the track. Distances, car's speed, road grip, size & weight estimated.. *calculating* .. Route found, execute.." and I flew through them perfectly, at high speed.
    The driving instructor just sat there, mouth agape. When he managed to cloe it again, the first words were "Where the hell did you learn to drive like that?" -- which is when I realized that my mind had gone into "gaming mode" more or less. And that it seemed to do rather well in the real world, too, in that occasion. When I think about how inaccurate it is (how many times do you miscalculate in games?), how the goals are skewed there (hitting something at high speed is a minor slowdown, not instant death. And speed is king), it's not a comfortable thought..

    Still, it have popped up a few times, and on some of those occations it has saved my bacon. So it's not really as bad as I feared. It mostly happen when the normal brain goes "Oh shit! PANIC TIME" - and at those times it's welcome with something that can dispassionately gather and process data at high speed, and come up with solutions. Of course, sometimes those solutions are not exactly sane.. ("Shoot a rocket at the fucker", or "hitting him in that part of the car will make him skid out of the road") .. So it needs an extra sanity check before it can be used.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay