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Your brain on article games Daphne Bavelier

Your brain on article games Daphne Bavelier Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Morton Bast Im a brain scientist, and as a brain scientist, Im actually interested in how the brain learns, and Im especially interested in a possibility of making our brains smarter, better and faster. This is in this context Im going to tell you about article games. When we say article games, most of you think about children. Its true. Ninety percent of children do play article games.

But lets be frank. When the kids are in bed, who is in front of the PlayStation? Most of you. The average age of a gamer is 33 years old, not eight years old, and in fact, if we look at the projected demographics of article game play, the article game players of tomorrow are older adults.

Laughter So article is pervasive throughout our society. It is clearly here to stay. It has an amazing impact on our everyday life.

Consider these statistics released by Activision. After one month of release of the game Call Of Duty: Black Ops, it had been played for 68, 000 years worldwide, right? Would any of you complain if this was the case about doing linear algebra? So what we are asking in the lab is, how can we leverage that power? Now I want to step back a bit.

I know most of you have had the experience of coming back home and finding your kids playing these kinds of games. Shooting noises The name of the game is to get after your enemy zombie bad guys before they get to you, right? And Im almost sure most of you have thought, Oh, come on, cant you do something more intelligent than shooting at zombies? Id like you to put this kind of knee-jerk reaction in the context of what you would have thought if you had found your girl playing sudoku or your boy reading Shakespeare. Right?

Most parents would find that great. Well, Im not going to tell you that playing article games days in and days out is actually good for your health. Its not, and binging is never good.

But Im going to argue that in reasonable doses, actually the very game I showed you at the beginning, those action-packed shooter games have quite powerful effects and positive effects on many different aspects of our behavior. Theres not one week that goes without some major headlines in the media about whether article games are good or bad for you, right? Youre all bombarded with that.

Id like to put this kind of Friday night bar discussion aside and get you to actually step into the lab. What we do in the lab is actually measure directly, in a quantitative fashion, what is the impact of article games on the brain. And so Im going to take a few examples from our work. One first saying that Im sure you all have heard is the fact that too much screen time makes your eyesight worse.

Thats a statement about vision. There may be vision scientists among you. We actually know how to test that statement.

We can step into the lab and measure how good your vision is. Well, guess what? People that dont play a lot of action games, that dont actually spend a lot of time in front of screens, have normal, or what we call corrective-to-normal vision. Thats okay. The issue is what happens with these guys that actually indulge into playing article games like five hours per week, 10 hours per week, 15 hours per week.

By that statement, their vision should be really bad, right? Guess what? Their vision is really, really good.

Its better than those that dont play. And its better in two different ways. The first way is that theyre actually able to resolve small detail in the context of clutter, and though that means being able to read the fine print on a prescription rather than using magnifier glasses, you can actually do it with just your eyesight.

The other way that they are better is actually being able to resolve different levels of gray. Imagine youre driving in a fog. That makes a difference between seeing the car in front of you and avoiding the accident, or getting into an accident.

So were actually leveraging that work to develop games for patients with low vision, and to have an impact on retraining their brain to see better. Clearly, when it comes to action article games, screen time doesnt make your eyesight worse. Another saying that Im sure you have all heard around: article games lead to attention problems and greater distractability. Okay, we know how to measure attention in the lab.

Im actually going to give you an example of how we do so. Im going to ask you to participate, so youre going to have to actually play the game with me. Im going to show you colored words. I want you to shout out the color of the ink.

Right? So this is the first example. Orange, good. Green.

Audience: Red.Daphne Bavelier: Red. DB: Yellow. Audience: Yellow. DB: Red. Audience: Yellow.

DB: Yellow. Okay, you get my point, right? Laughter Youre getting better, but its hard. Why is it hard?

Because I introduced a conflict between the word itself and its color. How good your attention is determines actually how fast you resolve that conflict, so the young guys here at the top of their game probably, like, did a little better than some of us that are older. What we can show is that when you do this kind of task with people that play a lot of action games, they actually resolve the conflict faster. So clearly playing those action games doesnt lead to attention problems. Actually, those action article game players have many other advantages in terms of attention, and one aspect of attention which is also improved for the better is our ability to track objects around in the world.

This is something we use all the time. When youre driving, youre tracking, keeping track of the cars around you. Youre also keeping track of the pedestrian, the running dog, and thats how you can actually be safe driving, right?

In the lab, we get people to come to the lab, sit in front of a computer screen, and we give them little tasks that Im going to get you to do again. Youre going to see yellow happy faces and a few sad blue faces. These are children in the schoolyard in Geneva during a recess during the winter. Most kids are happy. Its actually recess.

But a few kids are sad and blue because theyve forgotten their coat. Everybody begins to move around, and your task is to keep track of who had a coat at the beginning and who didnt. So Im just going to show you an example where there is only one sad kid.

Its easy because you can actually track it with your eyes. You can track, you can track, and then when it stops, and there is a question mark, and I ask you, did this kid have a coat or not? Was it yellow initially or blue? I hear a few yellow. Good.

So most of you have a brain. Laughter Im now going to ask you to do the task, but now with a little more challenging task. There are going to be three of them that are blue.

Dont move your eyes. Please dont move your eyes. Keep your eyes fixated and expand, pull your attention.

Thats the only way you can actually do it. If you move your eyes, youre doomed. Yellow or blue? Audience: Yellow.DB: Good.

So your typical normal young adult can have a span of about three or four objects of attention. Thats what we just did. Your action article game player has a span of about six to seven objects of attention, which is what is shown in this article here. Thats for you guys, action article game players.

A bit more challenging, right? Laughter Yellow or blue? Blue.

We have some people that are serious out there. Yeah. Laughter Good. So in the same way that we actually see the effects of article games on peoples behavior, we can use brain imaging and look at the impact of article games on the brain, and we do find many changes, but the main changes are actually to the brain networks that control attention. So one part is the parietal cortex which is very well known to control the orientation of attention.

The other one is the frontal lobe, which controls how we sustain attention, and another one is the anterior cingulate, which controls how we allocate and regulate attention and resolve conflict. Now, when we do brain imaging, we find that all three of these networks are actually much more efficient in people that play action games. This actually leads me to a rather counterintuitive finding in the literature about technology and the brain.

You all know about multitasking. You all have been faulty of multitasking when youre driving and you pick up your cellphone. Bad idea. Very bad idea.

Why? Because as your attention shifts to your cell phone, you are actually losing the capacity to react swiftly to the car braking in front of you, and so youre much more likely to get engaged into a car accident. Now, we can measure that kind of skills in the lab.

We obviously dont ask people to drive around and see how many car accidents they have. That would be a little costly proposition. But we design tasks on the computer where we can measure, to millisecond accuracy, how good they are at switching from one task to another. When we do that, we actually find that people that play a lot of action games are really, really good.

They switch really fast, very swiftly. They pay a very small cost. Now Id like you to remember that result, and put it in the context of another group of technology users, a group which is actually much revered by society, which are people that engage in multimedia-tasking. What is multimedia-tasking? Its the fact that most of us, most of our children, are engaged with listening to music at the same time as theyre doing search on the web at the same time as theyre chatting on Facebook with their friends.

Thats a multimedia-tasker. There was a first study done by colleagues at Stanford and that we replicated that showed that those people that identify as being high multimedia-taskers are absolutely abysmal at multitasking. When we measure them in the lab, theyre really bad. Right? So these kinds of results really makes two main points.

The first one is that not all media are created equal. You cant compare the effect of multimedia-tasking and the effect of playing action games. They have totally different effects on different aspects of cognition, perception and attention. Even within article games, Im telling you right now about these action-packed article games. Different article games have a different effect on your brains.

So we actually need to step into the lab and really measure what is the effect of each article game. The other lesson is that general wisdom carries no weight. I showed that to you already, like we looked at the fact that despite a lot of screen time, those action gamers have a lot of very good vision, etc.

Here, what was really striking is that these undergraduates that actually report engaging in a lot of high multimedia-tasking are convinced they aced the test. So you show them their data, you show them they are bad and theyre like, Not possible. You know, they have this sort of gut feeling that, really, they are doing really, really good.

Thats another argument for why we need to step into the lab and really measure the impact of technology on the brain. Now in a sense, when we think about the effect of article games on the brain, its very similar to the effect of wine on the health. There are some very poor uses of wine. There are some very poor uses of article games.

But when consumed in reasonable doses, and at the right age, wine can be very good for health. There are actually specific molecules that have been identified in red wine as leading to greater life expectancy. So its the same way, like those action article games have a number of ingredients that are actually really powerful for brain plasticity, learning, attention, vision, etc., and so we need and were working on understanding what are those active ingredients so that we can really then leverage them to deliver better games, either for education or for rehabilitation of patients. Now because we are interested in having an impact for education or rehabilitation of patients, we are actually not that interested in how those of you that choose to play article games for many hours on end perform.

Im much more interested in taking any of you and showing that by forcing you to play an action game, I can actually change your vision for the better, whether you want to play that action game or not, right? Thats the point of rehabilitation or education. Most of the kids dont go to school saying, Great, two hours of math!

So thats really the crux of the research, and to do that, we need to go one more step. And one more step is to do training studies. So let me illustrate that step with a task which is called mental rotation. Mental rotation is a task where Im going to ask you, and again youre going to do the task, to look at this shape.

Study it, its a target shape, and Im going to present to you four different shapes. One of these four different shapes is actually a rotated version of this shape. I want you to tell me which one: the first one, second one, third one or fourth one? Okay, Ill help you.

Fourth one. One more. Get those brains working.

Come on. Thats our target shape. Third. Good! This is hard, right?

Like, the reason that I asked you to do that is because you really feel your brain cringing, right? It doesnt really feel like playing mindless action article games. Well, what we do in these training studies is, people come to the lab, they do tasks like this one, we then force them to play 10 hours of action games. They dont play 10 hours of action games in a row.

They do distributed practice, so little shots of 40 minutes several days over a period of two weeks. Then, once they are done with the training, they come back a few days later and they are tested again on a similar type of mental rotation task. So this is work from a colleague in Toronto. What they showed is that, initially, you know, subjects perform where they are expected to perform given their age.

After two weeks of training on action article games, they actually perform better, and the improvement is still there five months after having done the training. Thats really, really important. Why? Because I told you we want to use these games for education or for rehabilitation.

We need to have effects that are going to be long-lasting. Now, at this point, a number of you are probably wondering well, what are you waiting for, to put on the market a game that would be good for the attention of my grandmother and that she would actually enjoy, or a game that would be great to rehabilitate the vision of my grandson who has amblyopia, for example? Well, were working on it, but here is a challenge. There are brain scientists like me that are beginning to understand what are the good ingredients in games to promote positive effects, and thats what Im going to call the broccoli side of the equation. There is an entertainment software industry which is extremely deft at coming up with appealing products that you cant resist.

Thats the chocolate side of the equation. The issue is we need to put the two together, and its a little bit like with food. Who really wants to eat chocolate-covered broccoli? None of you. Laughter And you probably have had that feeling, right, picking up an education game and sort of feeling, hmm, you know, its not really fun, its not really engaging.

So what we need is really a new brand of chocolate, a brand of chocolate that is irresistible, that you really want to play, but that has all the ingredients, the good ingredients that are extracted from the broccoli that you cant recognize but are still working on your brains. And were working on it, but it takes brain scientists to come and to get together, people that work in the entertainment software industry, and publishers, so these are not people that usually meet every day, but its actually doable, and we are on the right track. Id like to leave you with that thought, and thank you for your attention.

Applause Applause Your brain on article games Daphne Bavelier Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Morton Bast Im a brain scientist, and as a brain scientist, Im actually interested in how the brain learns, and Im especially interested in a possibility of making our brains smarter, better and faster. This is in this context Im going to tell you about article games. When we say article games, most of you think about children. Its true.

Ninety percent of children do play article games. But lets be frank. When the kids are in bed, who is in front of the PlayStation?

Most of you. The average age of a gamer is 33 years old, not eight years old, and in fact, if we look at the projected demographics of article game play, the article game players of tomorrow are older adults. Laughter So article is pervasive throughout our society. It is clearly here to stay.

It has an amazing impact on our everyday life. Consider these statistics released by Activision. After one month of release of the game Call Of Duty: Black Ops, it had been played for 68, 000 years worldwide, right? Would any of you complain if this was the case about doing linear algebra?

So what we are asking in the lab is, how can we leverage that power? Now I want to step back a bit. I know most of you have had the experience of coming back home and finding your kids playing these kinds of games. Shooting noises The name of the game is to get after your enemy zombie bad guys before they get to you, right? And Im almost sure most of you have thought, Oh, come on, cant you do something more intelligent than shooting at zombies?

Id like you to put this kind of knee-jerk reaction in the context of what you would have thought if you had found your girl playing sudoku or your boy reading Shakespeare. Right? Most parents would find that great. Well, Im not going to tell you that playing article games days in and days out is actually good for your health.

Its not, and binging is never good. But Im going to argue that in reasonable doses, actually the very game I showed you at the beginning, those action-packed shooter games have quite powerful effects and positive effects on many different aspects of our behavior. Theres not one week that goes without some major headlines in the media about whether article games are good or bad for you, right? Youre all bombarded with that. Id like to put this kind of Friday night bar discussion aside and get you to actually step into the lab.

What we do in the lab is actually measure directly, in a quantitative fashion, what is the impact of article games on the brain. And so Im going to take a few examples from our work. One first saying that Im sure you all have heard is the fact that too much screen time makes your eyesight worse. Thats a statement about vision.

There may be vision scientists among you. We actually know how to test that statement. We can step into the lab and measure how good your vision is. Well, guess what? People that dont play a lot of action games, that dont actually spend a lot of time in front of screens, have normal, or what we call corrective-to-normal vision.

Thats okay. The issue is what happens with these guys that actually indulge into playing article games like five hours per week, 10 hours per week, 15 hours per week. By that statement, their vision should be really bad, right? Guess what?

Their vision is really, really good. Its better than those that dont play. And its better in two different ways. The first way is that theyre actually able to resolve small detail in the context of clutter, and though that means being able to read the fine print on a prescription rather than using magnifier glasses, you can actually do it with just your eyesight. The other way that they are better is actually being able to resolve different levels of gray.

Imagine youre driving in a fog. That makes a difference between seeing the car in front of you and avoiding the accident, or getting into an accident. So were actually leveraging that work to develop games for patients with low vision, and to have an impact on retraining their brain to see better.

Clearly, when it comes to action article games, screen time doesnt make your eyesight worse. Another saying that Im sure you have all heard around: article games lead to attention problems and greater distractability. Okay, we know how to measure attention in the lab. Im actually going to give you an example of how we do so. Im going to ask you to participate, so youre going to have to actually play the game with me.

Im going to show you colored words. I want you to shout out the color of the ink. Right? So this is the first example.

Orange, good. Green. Audience: Red.Daphne Bavelier: Red. DB: Yellow.

Audience: Yellow. DB: Red. Audience: Yellow. DB: Yellow. Okay, you get my point, right?

Laughter Youre getting better, but its hard. Why is it hard? Because I introduced a conflict between the word itself and its color. How good your attention is determines actually how fast you resolve that conflict, so the young guys here at the top of their game probably, like, did a little better than some of us that are older.

What we can show is that when you do this kind of task with people that play a lot of action games, they actually resolve the conflict faster. So clearly playing those action games doesnt lead to attention problems. Actually, those action article game players have many other advantages in terms of attention, and one aspect of attention which is also improved for the better is our ability to track objects around in the world. This is something we use all the time.

When youre driving, youre tracking, keeping track of the cars around you. Youre also keeping track of the pedestrian, the running dog, and thats how you can actually be safe driving, right? In the lab, we get people to come to the lab, sit in front of a computer screen, and we give them little tasks that Im going to get you to do again. Youre going to see yellow happy faces and a few sad blue faces. These are children in the schoolyard in Geneva during a recess during the winter.

Most kids are happy. Its actually recess. But a few kids are sad and blue because theyve forgotten their coat.

Everybody begins to move around, and your task is to keep track of who had a coat at the beginning and who didnt. So Im just going to show you an example where there is only one sad kid. Its easy because you can actually track it with your eyes. You can track, you can track, and then when it stops, and there is a question mark, and I ask you, did this kid have a coat or not? Was it yellow initially or blue?

I hear a few yellow. Good. So most of you have a brain. Laughter Im now going to ask you to do the task, but now with a little more challenging task. There are going to be three of them that are blue.

Dont move your eyes. Please dont move your eyes. Keep your eyes fixated and expand, pull your attention.

Thats the only way you can actually do it. If you move your eyes, youre doomed. Yellow or blue? Audience: Yellow.DB: Good.

So your typical normal young adult can have a span of about three or four objects of attention. Thats what we just did. Your action article game player has a span of about six to seven objects of attention, which is what is shown in this article here. Thats for you guys, action article game players.

A bit more challenging, right? Laughter Yellow or blue? Blue. We have some people that are serious out there. Yeah.

Laughter Good. So in the same way that we actually see the effects of article games on peoples behavior, we can use brain imaging and look at the impact of article games on the brain, and we do find many changes, but the main changes are actually to the brain networks that control attention. So one part is the parietal cortex which is very well known to control the orientation of attention.

The other one is the frontal lobe, which controls how we sustain attention, and another one is the anterior cingulate, which controls how we allocate and regulate attention and resolve conflict. Now, when we do brain imaging, we find that all three of these networks are actually much more efficient in people that play action games. This actually leads me to a rather counterintuitive finding in the literature about technology and the brain. You all know about multitasking.

You all have been faulty of multitasking when youre driving and you pick up your cellphone. Bad idea. Very bad idea.

Why? Because as your attention shifts to your cell phone, you are actually losing the capacity to react swiftly to the car braking in front of you, and so youre much more likely to get engaged into a car accident. Now, we can measure that kind of skills in the lab. We obviously dont ask people to drive around and see how many car accidents they have. That would be a little costly proposition.

But we design tasks on the computer where we can measure, to millisecond accuracy, how good they are at switching from one task to another. When we do that, we actually find that people that play a lot of action games are really, really good. They switch really fast, very swiftly. They pay a very small cost.

Now Id like you to remember that result, and put it in the context of another group of technology users, a group which is actually much revered by society, which are people that engage in multimedia-tasking. What is multimedia-tasking? Its the fact that most of us, most of our children, are engaged with listening to music at the same time as theyre doing search on the web at the same time as theyre chatting on Facebook with their friends. Thats a multimedia-tasker.

There was a first study done by colleagues at Stanford and that we replicated that showed that those people that identify as being high multimedia-taskers are absolutely abysmal at multitasking. When we measure them in the lab, theyre really bad. Right?

So these kinds of results really makes two main points. The first one is that not all media are created equal. You cant compare the effect of multimedia-tasking and the effect of playing action games. They have totally different effects on different aspects of cognition, perception and attention. Even within article games, Im telling you right now about these action-packed article games.

Different article games have a different effect on your brains. So we actually need to step into the lab and really measure what is the effect of each article game. The other lesson is that general wisdom carries no weight.

I showed that to you already, like we looked at the fact that despite a lot of screen time, those action gamers have a lot of very good vision, etc. Here, what was really striking is that these undergraduates that actually report engaging in a lot of high multimedia-tasking are convinced they aced the test. So you show them their data, you show them they are bad and theyre like, Not possible. You know, they have this sort of gut feeling that, really, they are doing really, really good. Thats another argument for why we need to step into the lab and really measure the impact of technology on the brain.

Now in a sense, when we think about the effect of article games on the brain, its very similar to the effect of wine on the health. There are some very poor uses of wine. There are some very poor uses of article games. But when consumed in reasonable doses, and at the right age, wine can be very good for health. There are actually specific molecules that have been identified in red wine as leading to greater life expectancy.

So its the same way, like those action article games have a number of ingredients that are actually really powerful for brain plasticity, learning, attention, vision, etc., and so we need and were working on understanding what are those active ingredients so that we can really then leverage them to deliver better games, either for education or for rehabilitation of patients. Now because we are interested in having an impact for education or rehabilitation of patients, we are actually not that interested in how those of you that choose to play article games for many hours on end perform. Im much more interested in taking any of you and showing that by forcing you to play an action game, I can actually change your vision for the better, whether you want to play that action game or not, right?

Thats the point of rehabilitation or education. Most of the kids dont go to school saying, Great, two hours of math! So thats really the crux of the research, and to do that, we need to go one more step. And one more step is to do training studies.

So let me illustrate that step with a task which is called mental rotation. Mental rotation is a task where Im going to ask you, and again youre going to do the task, to look at this shape. Study it, its a target shape, and Im going to present to you four different shapes. One of these four different shapes is actually a rotated version of this shape.

I want you to tell me which one: the first one, second one, third one or fourth one? Okay, Ill help you. Fourth one. One more.

Get those brains working. Come on. Thats our target shape.

Third. Good! This is hard, right? Like, the reason that I asked you to do that is because you really feel your brain cringing, right?

It doesnt really feel like playing mindless action article games. Well, what we do in these training studies is, people come to the lab, they do tasks like this one, we then force them to play 10 hours of action games. They dont play 10 hours of action games in a row.

They do distributed practice, so little shots of 40 minutes several days over a period of two weeks. Then, once they are done with the training, they come back a few days later and they are tested again on a similar type of mental rotation task. So this is work from a colleague in Toronto. What they showed is that, initially, you know, subjects perform where they are expected to perform given their age.

After two weeks of training on action article games, they actually perform better, and the improvement is still there five months after having done the training. Thats really, really important. Why? Because I told you we want to use these games for education or for rehabilitation. We need to have effects that are going to be long-lasting.

Now, at this point, a number of you are probably wondering well, what are you waiting for, to put on the market a game that would be good for the attention of my grandmother and that she would actually enjoy, or a game that would be great to rehabilitate the vision of my grandson who has amblyopia, for example? Well, were working on it, but here is a challenge. There are brain scientists like me that are beginning to understand what are the good ingredients in games to promote positive effects, and thats what Im going to call the broccoli side of the equation. There is an entertainment software industry which is extremely deft at coming up with appealing products that you cant resist.

Thats the chocolate side of the equation. The issue is we need to put the two together, and its a little bit like with food. Who really wants to eat chocolate-covered broccoli?

None of you. Laughter And you probably have had that feeling, right, picking up an education game and sort of feeling, hmm, you know, its not really fun, its not really engaging. So what we need is really a new brand of chocolate, a brand of chocolate that is irresistible, that you really want to play, but that has all the ingredients, the good ingredients that are extracted from the broccoli that you cant recognize but are still working on your brains. And were working on it, but it takes brain scientists to come and to get together, people that work in the entertainment software industry, and publishers, so these are not people that usually meet every day, but its actually doable, and we are on the right track.

Id like to leave you with that thought, and thank you for your attention. Applause Applause

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