Game On! Why Your Child Should Play Video Games

“Get off that game! You’ll go blind!”

It’s a tale as old as time: parents are chasing their children off video games all over the world. As a parent, you want to be sure your child is getting the most beneficial experiences possible. New and conflicting information seems to appear often on whether or not video games are “good” for you. Among the World Health Organization (WHO)’s new draft of medical conditions on June 18, 2018, they included “gaming disorder” as a diagnosable illness. Meanwhile, psychologists, researchers, and game developers point to how games can instill therapeutic, recreational and educational values in its players. It’s understandable that you want your kids to engage in a positive activity that helps them socialize and grow, but who’s to say your child’s video game isn’t doing both?

So video games are good for me now?

I know what you are thinking, “How can playing a video game for hours on end be good for anyone, let alone a child?” Video games provide players with challenging and engaging tasks that require the player to think critically and adapt new strategies as they progress.

According to a journal article entitled The Benefits of Playing Video Games published by Isabela Granic, PhD of Radboud University Nijmegan in The Netherlands, playing video games can help improve problem-solving skills as well as have motivational benefits. Dr. Granic says that video games are an ideal training ground for acquiring an incremental theory of intelligence because they provide players concrete, immediate feedback regarding specific efforts players have made.

Incremental theory of intelligence is the belief that intelligence is “malleable, or something that can be cultivated over time and effort.” This form of intelligence is extremely important, as it teaches children to maintain a positive attitude in the face of failure. Dr. Granic also mentions that there may be a positive correlation between playing video games and dealing with failure and “real world” success in areas like continuing to push past a problem instead of giving up.

Now of course, other settings can also help children learn and reinforce these lessons while playing games or working in groups, playing video games all day can have negative effects. Video game play must be done in moderation, so how much time should someone spend playing?

The answer may surprise you

A recent study from University of Oxford experimental psychologist Andrew K. Przybylski, Phd. entitled Electronic Gaming and Psychosocial Adjustment was conducted using 2436 males and 2463 females, ages ranging from 10 to 15. What Dr. Przybylski was looking for was the effects of gameplay of a child psychosocial development. What he found may shape the way we think about children and video gameplay. Dr. Przybylski found that children who spend less than one-third of their day gaming—that’s no more than 3 hours a day—were shown to have higher levels of prosocial behavior and life satisfaction and lower levels of conduct problems, hyperactivity, peer problems and emotional symptoms. He also went on to say that “electronic play has salutary functions similar to traditional forms of play; they present opportunities for identity development as well as cognitive and social challenges.”

Now that we know more about the positive cognitive and behavioral effects video games have on kids, we see that maybe we shouldn’t be chasing them off these games. Video games played in moderation have been shown to increase cognitive function and be as beneficial as other forms of play. Video games also provide children with the opportunity to learn skills we may overlook, like critical thinking, strategy and spatial thinking. Some games promote physical activity in children with ADHD, as the risk for obesity is much greater. So the next time you see your child playing his or her favorite game, have a seat next to them and ask to play next because you’re never too old learn a new skill.

 

What do you think is a good amount of video game time for your family? Let us know in the comments!

NeuroPlus at TEDxCharleston

We’re happy to announce that our CEO Jake Stauch has been chosen as a TEDxCharleston speaker at the live event Wednesday, October 18, 2017 from 10:00am – 4:00pm at the Charleston Music Hall.

“I’m excited to share the capabilities of video games to improve attention,” said Stauch. “Some people question the impact of video games on our attention, but the research shows there could be surprising benefits.”

On stage, Jake will be looking into the future to the day when video games could be a solution for ADHD. By discussing research and breakthroughs, attendees will hear about how games can lead the way to improvements now.

Other speakers highlighted at the event can be found here, and if you’re local, you can access tickets online August 22. You can also follow along with the event by registering for the livestream. Hear something cool? Chat with NeuroPlus on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter or check out TEDxCharleston’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Flickr accounts.

In anticipation of the live event, we wanted to share three previous TED Talks that talk about how gaming is making a positive impact in individuals’ lives.

Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world [20:03]
McGonigal studied how games provide people with the experience of achieving an “epic win” and opportunities to stay motivated and overcome failure or frustration. She argues that virtual worlds provide us the platform to practice collaboration, creative problem solving, and social skills.

Daphne Bavelier: Your game on video games [17:57]
Bavelier, a researcher, talks through her research that indicate how video games could be helping practicing skills after playing including focus, multitasking, and vision. She makes the argument that by looking at video games as a tool that can improve our performance when done in moderation, we can see direct improvements over time.

Tom Chatfield: 7 ways games reward the brain [16:28]
It’s easy to be drawn into video games that feels far from the real world – crushing candy, catapulting animals, building cities, etc. The reward systems of these games captivate and motivate us, building upon human nature, to achieve more points and excel in these virtual worlds. Chatfield talks through the elements that make an interesting video game, and we argue that these elements that could very well be manipulated to encourage learning skills in any environment.

Photo courtesy of Edith Howle.

What Your Brain Looks Like on NeuroPlus Video Games

Families that train with and play NeuroPlus games have seen some amazing results. Whether you’re familiar with biofeedback and neurofeedback or they’re totally new concepts to you, we wanted to break down the scientific foundation of our games and how players and families can see improvements in focus, body control, and impulsivity by using the product. We’ll start by explaining how we measure focus by looking at the building blocks of your brain and the way scientists track if someone’s paying attention.

Focus
Neurons, the cells that help you think and feel, communicate by shooting electrical signals to each other in a big network throughout our bodies. When groups of neurons fire together, they leave traces that can be detected as brainwaves through an EEG (electroencephalogram) device. These brainwave signals can be separated into general clusters that doctors and researchers recognize. Right now, there’s not a scientific consensus about why or how these signals work this way. The different types of brainwaves are named after Greek letters, and the ones we use for NeuroPlus games are the beta and theta waves.

Scientists have identified a relationship between beta and theta brainwaves that indicate when someone is paying attention. Higher beta and lower theta is generally associated with more attention. There’s even an assessment called NEBA that doctors sometimes use when diagnosing someone with ADHD. Similar to that assessment, our system looks at a player’s beta and theta waves every 1 second or so, and determines the relationship between these two patterns. When the ratio is high (beta is high, theta is low), the player is rewarded, while a low ratio – indicating less focus – is punished. In the game that might translate to a player going faster when he’s paying attention or slower when he needs to focus more. When he first starts playing the game it might be hard to know exactly what it feels like to pay attention, but it’s something that comes with a little bit of practice.

Body control
It’s often hard to focus when you can’t sit still, and that’s why body control is the second pillar in the NeuroPlus system. The EEG headset that tracks brainwaves when you play NeuroPlus games also has an accelerometer that can tell if a player is moving around too much. When the game detects this kind of movement, the player is penalized in the game environment. They may, for example, lose control of their vehicle or lose points. This kind of feedback within the game leads to recognizable benefits in everyday life. With many people, constant movement and fidgeting are hard habits to break. Practicing with NeuroPlus helps individuals become more aware of their bodies and improves self-control.

Impulse control
The final pillar of our games is getting a player to react to the right stimuli on the screen and to ignore what’s not important through what we call go/no-go tasks. Researchers use this same type of technology in cognitive training therapy, challenging players to decide quickly when to react to something and when to ignore it. In NeuroPlus games, there is a lot happening by design. Go/no-go training is combined with the other pillars to make it more challenging and therefore more effective for the players. Stimuli appear rapidly on the screen and the player has to react as fast as possible, deciding whether to tap it or ignore it based on the game’s instructions. The player will not do well if they’re hyper focused on only one aspect of the game, or if they’re just passively paying attention. The player has to tap the stimulus correctly in order to earn points or avoid costly penalties.

Practice makes perfect
As with anything practice makes perfect. Since the foundation of NeuroPlus games are made from all three pillars—focus, body control, and impulse control—players see improvements not only within the game, but also in other aspects of their lives over time. We’ve seen these results within independent, blinded research and heard about them from individuals that can perform better in meetings or families that say a child is able to focus better on homework and get better grades.

If you’d like to try out NeuroPlus, you can sign up here, or schedule a time to talk to someone from our team about your questions.

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Photo courtesy of Jesse Orrico.

Your Brain on Video Games


In the media, there’s no shortage of negative attention on video games. Headlines abound portraying video games as equivalent to drugs or gambling as an addiction. There are even treatment programs available for helping children combat their video game addictions. Not only is the act of gaming controversial, but also the content of the games. More recently, however, video games’ association with ADHD has come to light. Speculation began when parents of children with ADHD reported their children being obsessed with gaming more frequently than other parents. Researchers have taken this association seriously, conducting studies attempting to clarify the link between gaming and ADHD. No studies have been able to verify the connection, except for the obvious…ADHD is an attention disorder and video games stimulate your attention constantly.

Despite the association, there is no evidence that video games cause ADHD or worsen ADHD symptoms…in fact there is some evidence to support just the opposite: video games increase attention and even vision in active gamers. Three years ago this month, Daphne Bavelier gave a TED Talk discussing her research on how the brain reacts to video games and on why we should be training people of all ages to concentrate using video games.

Check out Bavelier’s talk here:

(Pay close attention to the parts surrounding attention, ~5:00)

As you can see from Bavelier’s work, the negative discussion surrounding video games’ effects on attention is primarily a knee-jerk reaction, unfounded in science. The mental exercises promoted by action game use in fact help two elements of attention: resolving conflict and the ability to track objects, both of which are compromised in people with ADHD. The stimulated brain areas that Bavelier discusses are those of executive control, a dysfunctional area in patients with ADHD. Thus, not only can video game training be leveraged in the proposed contexts of senior citizens or people with compromised vision, it can be applied to treat symptoms of ADHD.

Bavelier’s results support exactly our goals here at NEURO+. By harnessing the stimulation and engagement that video games provide, we are able to extract and leverage their valuable training potential to help individuals with ADHD. In some cases, video game addiction may not be so bad after all…