Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Video games make for good brain food

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Hello Wellness on Nov 2 2010 9:26AM


Eye-strain, insomnia laptop burns, seizures, chronic addiction and a contributing factor to obesity - from a harmless hobby, video gaming has now become a health hazard. Most of the bad effects of video games are blamed on the violence they contain.  Children who play more violent video games are more likely to have increased aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. But the much-maligned sport (if we may call it that) can actually help improve your coordination, decision-making skills and even memory. How? Read on...


Faster fingers, sharper minds

Research has shown that people who play action video games have faster reaction times than those who don't play the games. Action video games typically refer to "shooter games, where you go through a maze and you don't know when a villain will appear. Cognitive neuroscientists at the University of Rochester in New York have now found that action gamers apparently are better at making quick and accurate decisions, ones based on details they extract from their surroundings.

Better hand-eye coordination
Certain games can improve hand-eye coordination, intelligence and problem solving for example, the city-building simulation game, Sim City, where players learn the basic functions of cities and how to solve problems in an efficient manner. Video may have killed the audio star but games such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero help improve aptitude even though you're not learning how to play an actual instrument you commit to memory pitch, tempo, speed and advance each time. Research also suggests that you can learn spatial and visual attention skills from video games.

Games boost memory

Video games are an often overlooked source of improving memory. Games that use planning and strategy such as Total War and Sudoku improve memory performance and intelligence. The Alzheimer's Association recommends puzzles as therapy because some studies have suggested they might improve memory, attention and problem solving while staving off mental decline and, perhaps, reducing the risk of the disease altogether.

Pick games that require you to come up with strategies, and make decisions in a game environment that are more complex than punching, stealing, and killing. However, gaming can become extremely addictive and playing video games 24 hours a day, seven days a week, will do more damage to your brain that you think.  Small doses go a long way.

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