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Playing Action Video Games May Be Bad For Your Brain, Study Finds (www.cbc.ca) 116

An anonymous reader shares a report:Playing first-person shooter video games causes some users to lose grey matter in a part of their brain associated with the memory of past events and experiences, a new study by two Montreal researchers concludes. Gregory West, an associate professor of psychology at the Universite de Montreal, says the neuroimaging study, published Tuesday in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, is the first to find conclusive evidence of grey matter loss in a key part of the brain as a direct result of computer interaction. "A few studies have been published that show video games could have a positive impact on the brain, namely positive associations between action video games, first-person shooter games, and visual attention and motor control skills," West told CBC News. To date, no one has shown that human-computer interactions could have negative impacts on the brain -- in this case the hippocampal memory system." The four-year study by West and Veronique Bohbot, an associate professor of psychiatry at McGill University, looked at the impact of action video games on the hippocampus, the part of the brain that plays a critical role in spatial memory and the ability to recollect past events and experiences.
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Playing Action Video Games May Be Bad For Your Brain, Study Finds

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  • by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @11:32AM (#54974969)

    What with all the porn, crystal meth, tv and politics we have to get through.

    • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

      Pff who has time for all that porn, crystal meth, tv and politics when there's frags to rack up and gibs to liberate?

  • No wonder my coworkers at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple personality disorder) accused me of not being a team player when I got my certifications and went back to school to learn computer programming. I still had some grey matter left when I made my career transition to clean out IT closets.
  • Witch hunt (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Just another bogus study in a long line of anti-video game "studies".

    • by skids ( 119237 )

      Actually, it's just another sensationalist headline saying wrong things about a study that is really very interesting. I recommend RTFA.

      Twitch games build up one part of the brain and make the hippocampus atrophy. 3-D platformers (VR?) build up the hippocampus. The authors suggest FPS game makers take away the mini-maps and wayfinders and add more scenery and mazes to balance things out.

      Which makes me surprised that BL2 was to them a typical action game... the maps in that are usually best navigated by s

    • People drink to forget, get high to forget and play games to forget.
      I guess from this point of view games work perfectly and meet the goals.

  • Bad or evolution? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dbrueck ( 1872018 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @11:41AM (#54975053)

    Grey matter loss seems bad, but at the same time I wonder if we're just detecting humans adapting to technology - maybe it's not so much a net loss in brain functionality but more a manifestation of tradeoffs being made.

    For example, growing up there was a lot of emphasis on memorizing information (memorize all the countries of the world, memorize all US states and their capitals, memorize these dates in history, memorize these mathematical equations, etc.). These days that seems far less useful.

    So, if we offload to technology the storage and recall of trivia, it wouldn't be surprising to find that some part of our brains are less used compared with those of people 50 years ago. But maybe we'd also see that the brains of people today are better at being exposed to more data without being overwhelmed, or better at quickly sifting through mounds of information to find something in particular, or better at distilling lots of info down to its essence.

    • Re:Bad or evolution? (Score:5, Informative)

      by David_Hart ( 1184661 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @11:54AM (#54975181)

      Grey matter loss seems bad, but at the same time I wonder if we're just detecting humans adapting to technology - maybe it's not so much a net loss in brain functionality but more a manifestation of tradeoffs being made.

      For example, growing up there was a lot of emphasis on memorizing information (memorize all the countries of the world, memorize all US states and their capitals, memorize these dates in history, memorize these mathematical equations, etc.). These days that seems far less useful.

      So, if we offload to technology the storage and recall of trivia, it wouldn't be surprising to find that some part of our brains are less used compared with those of people 50 years ago. But maybe we'd also see that the brains of people today are better at being exposed to more data without being overwhelmed, or better at quickly sifting through mounds of information to find something in particular, or better at distilling lots of info down to its essence.

      The study is more nuanced than that. It says that Response learners (people who count right and left turns) lose grey matter when playing FPS games for extended periods of time. But Spacial learners (those who use landmarks) seem not to be affected. I use spacial cues in FPS games because there is no way that I could remember left/right turns in games like Skyrim.

      The study also found that playing 3D platformers (i.e. Mario Brothers) reversed the grey matter loss.

      • I use spacial cues in FPS games because there is no way that I could remember left/right turns in games like Skyrim.

        The study also found that playing 3D platformers (i.e. Mario Brothers) reversed the grey matter loss.

        What did they say about CounterStrike? I play a fair bit and seem to have above average reaction, attention, motor skills etc, but also have terrible memory. To the GP's point, do I care? Figuring things out quickly is more important these days than remembering stuff, could this just but an evolutionary shift where strong memory becomes as useful as a tail?

    • This is probably more on-point than conclusions that it's just outright brain damage. Lots of studies have shown there are tradeoffs for certain types of intellectual capacity. In one notable study they found that all chimpanzees have perfect photographic memories. The researchers hypothesized that human beings may have lost the ubiquity of this mental trait as a tradeoff for language processing capabilities.

    • Yeah, I'm very suspicious when these types of claims are made without considering the tradeoff.

      I'm very much oriented towards rapid processing of information. On the contrary, I have a much more difficult time with memorization and procedural tasks than other people.

      The Richard Feynman archetype has existed forever, I think its just that now everyone who doesn't have that personality is being directed into it by the internet.

    • Until you hear North Korea was threatening to attack Guam, and you're like "wtf are North Korea and Guam?" There is some level of information that is required to be a good citizen, and another level that is probably memorized based on your occupation and gets used often enough where knowing it saves you the time to look it up. Have you also seen the reports of how navigation tools are causing loss of spatial intelligence? Deity help us when the solar flares knock out electronics, or when NK attacks Guam
      • Yes and yes! This line of questions is something I've wondered about too and ... I don't know what the right answer is. :)

        On the one hand, memorizing gobs of factoids like I did in grade school seems like a waste. OTOH, without some set of hopefully-common knowledge, you can't really participate in society as well, much less avoiding repeating the mistakes of history. I found this article https://www.nytimes.com/intera... [nytimes.com] pretty fascinating, for example.

        For me personally I seem to do best if I'm aware of st

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I wonder whether it isn't an evolved response, like the brain perceiving it as combat, and prioritizing survival over other more intellectual functions

    • For example, growing up there was a lot of emphasis on memorizing information (memorize all the countries of the world, memorize all US states and their capitals, memorize these dates in history, memorize these mathematical equations, etc.). These days that seems far less useful.

      Forced memorization of things you're not actually using was always stupid. When you actually use things repeatedly, you learn them plenty quickly.

      Memorizing equations is probably the exception, though. Knowing which equation to use when seems indispensable. You could figure it out if you're a badass mathematician, but why waste the time?

      • Agreed, although those too either remain with you if you use them or generally fade away if you don't use them regularly. I'm pretty sure the volume of a sphere is 4/3 * pi * r^3, but that's something I'd double check before relying on it since it's not something I use often. And it's been years since I've used the quadratic formula so I'd definitely have to Google that one. Those are really basic equations, and some people would be shocked that anyone doesn't just know them, while others would not even kno

        • by skids ( 119237 )

          The most valuable thing you can teach is a taxonomy of what there is to learn, and the methods to learn it. But throwing some random data from some leaf nodes of that taxonomy can lead to a few "ah-ha I know this one" moments which will provide emotional motivation to put some flesh on those bones.

    • by aliquis ( 678370 )

      data without being overwhelmed, or better at quickly sifting through mounds of information to find something in particular, or better at distilling lots of info down to its essence.

      Yeah I'm excellent at ignoring everything to save energy ;D

  • Misleading title (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Marcpek ( 4861773 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @11:46AM (#54975109)
    As usual, news sites like make catchy titles on scientific articles while ignoring important information. From the abstract: "These results show that video games can be beneficial or detrimental to the hippocampal system depending on the navigation strategy that a person employs and the genre of the game." So that doesn't mean that playing video games shrinks your brain, does it.
    • In other words :

      Article "Doing activity X will improve training on capability A and B, but the unused skill C and D will dwindle"
      Press "OMG! X is going to kill us all because of C and D ! Quick, click on our advertisement!"

      Cue in ob. reference to PhDcomics [phdcomics.com]

    • by nasch ( 598556 )

      Playing Action Video Games May Be Bad For Your Brain, Study Finds

      Playing first-person shooter video games causes some users to lose grey matter

      The qualifiers are right there. You're the one who paraphrased incorrectly.

  • Playing Action Video Games May Be GOOD For Your Brain, Study Finds..... Click bait!

  • Most of us already knew playing action video games was bad for your brain.

    Remember #gamergate?

  • by celest ( 100606 ) <mekki@mekki.ca> on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @11:56AM (#54975201) Homepage

    Actual study (open access): http://www.nature.com/mp/journ... [nature.com]

    The actual study looks at the navigation strategies used in games and separates both the type of games and the type of players; i.e., players of the same game using different navigation strategies develop their brains differently.

    The finding is that if you play first person shooters and just wander around and shoot things, the hippocampus doesn't develop (and decreases in mass). By contrast, if you learn to navigate based on references in the game (or, by dying repeatedly by navigating incorrectly, as is common in the Mario game control group they used) your brain develops.

    It would be interesting to see a comparison between Call of Duty pub players and competitive Counter-Strike players. The former just "shoot everything that moves". The latter are highly coordinated like SWAT teams. The present findings seem to suggest that the latter--in the same game--would develop their brain matter, whereas the former would not.

  • A general rule of life is "all things in moderation". If you do too much of ANYTHING, it usually causes problems or risk. Too much exercise, such as running or weight lifting, even appears to be detrimental. If you spend most of your free time gaming, you are probably screwing yourself over. Same applies to coffee, alcohol, porn, trolling slashdot, you name it. Mix it up, get out more. (Yes, I am pulling a Shatner skit here. Deal with it.)

  • that if you use your brain in a narrow way for a large portion of your life, that your brain will become less good at the things you don't use it for?

    Here comes my shocked face again.

  • "Playing first-person shooter video games causes some users to lose grey matter"

    My character has his brains flying around all the time in the games I play.

  • First up, link to the actual study in Nature's Molecular Psychology:

    Impact of video games on plasticity of the hippocampus [nature.com]

    The study was mostly on the effects of different navigation mechanisms (the "control group" did 3d platforming) - so isn't the lesson here, if you spend lots of time gaming, don't only play one kind of game?

    Also, where was the non-videogaming control? Isn't there a general loss of grey matter over time regardless? I'd think tablet/GPS users using virtually NO navigational skil
  • The game may only be a simulation, but the PTSD is real.

  • We therefore followed up Study 1 with two longitudinal training studies where participants trained in-lab for 90h on either an action or 3D-platform video game (Study 2) or on an action-role playing game

    How many players of Call of Duty were habitual pot users vs the players of My Little Pony Sparkle Adventures?

    Wait... don't answer that...

  • I Quake with fear that the loss of grey matter could resulting in me leading a Half-Life. (OK, I got you started, do not disappoint me.)
  • Maybe they are counting the fight or flight reaction. Being overstressed is known to kill brain cells.
  • You can die crossing the street. You can loose grey matter in your brain from concussion or other injury. This study is rubbish ... it is a waste of time and resources.
  • This bothers me because I have good visual attention and motor control skills but poor memory and...well, look at my username...

    Maybe the puzzle games would help to compensate for the FPS damage? :-P

  • Wasn't it within the past 6 months, there was a "study" that stated playing FPS was good for the brain?
  • Did their data adjust for the percentage of gamers who were pounding keystone light while racking up frags? frags is still gamer lingo right? I don't know anymore I'm old and I lost too much gray matter on CS in my youth.
  • https://www.nature.com/mp/jour... [nature.com]

    Forget short hand summaries and the articles you are gonna read about this subject that are often misguided and sensationalistic.
    Read the piece. It has some merit, but it might not be drawing the conclusions that people are writing about it.

  • Does the study actually show computer game specific negative effects? or is this another "do this to excess and the negatives outweighs the benefits" type of observation which applies to basically everything, (yes i'm sceptical... i'm also lazy/busy/not interested enough, someone read the study and give us the TL;DR of the truth of the article premise.)
  • ... makes your whole brain shrink, right?

  • Part of the problem with this study is the bad interpretations of the study after the study was concluded (and this was done by the click bait articles about it rather than the scientist journal that described it). If their conclusions are significant (and more studies, specifically case studies, are needed to determine just that), what they have found is that repetitive actions in a game long term is problematic, but long term playing of the game is not the causal mechanism itself. Because what they found

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