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…


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