Archive October 2009

Your Brain on Video Games 3

Oct19

Over the last six years, there have been a number of studies where they place an individual in an fMRI and having them play a video game while measuring a variety of measures of cognitive activity.  One that intrigues me happened a number of years ago at the University of Southern California, where subjects played a game called “Tactical Ops”.  Normally, subjects stuck inside a pounding MRI machine can handle only a max of 20 minutes before a break.  In this case, an hour later the players were still going strong.

The actual results of tracking the blood flow and measuring the dopamine levels is not nearly as important as what this says about attention and the power of intermittent reinforcement. 

On a larger level, most studies have concluded that while there are definitely down-sides to digital game addiction, playing certain games can truly improve pattern recognition, systems thinking, patience, and peripheral vision.

Rick’s Recommended Games:

Virtual Reality can Reduce Pain 2

Oct12

There is an area of the brain  (the cingulate cortex for you neuro-geeks) that is partly concerned with how much attention is given to experiencing a particular pain.  It has been found that the use of virtual reality is so stimulating, that it leaves less attention available to tune in to the pain… hence we don’t feel it as much.  In this particular research, burn victims found relief by immersing themselves in cooling virtual environment.

You see, pain is all in the mind.  Once the pain signal is sent to the brain, what we experience and how intensely we experience it is all a matter of how the brain interprets it.  This is why when you touch something hot or very cold, for a split second you can’t tell the difference.  This is also why we don’t notice a pain when we are very occupied.  (ever notice a bruise later and not have any idea how you got it).