Your Brain on Video Games

SONY DSCBe honest… video games drive you crazy? Do you think of them as a complete waste of time with no redeeming qualities or benefits? If you do – you may be surprised to learn that a new study claims some video games may be good for your mental health.

From Tech Times:

There could soon be a novel method to combat depression, as a new study reveals that playing video games can help beat the blues.

University of California-Davis researchers are experimenting with video games and brain training programs to find a treatment for depression.

According to United Press International (UPI), “The study used six, three-minute specifically designed video games played by 160 student participants with an average age of 21. The study showed in most cases playing a game helped participants feel they had some control over their depression. The games were an adaptation of neurophysiological training tasks shown to improve cognitive control in people with depression.” quoted researchers as saying:

“Through the use of carefully designed persuasive message prompts … mental health video games can be perceived and used as a more viable and less attrition-ridden treatment option,”

At the same time, another study claims video games may boost mental health by helping trauma victims deal with harmful flashbacks. Fox News wrote:

Playing the video game “Tetris” shortly after a traumatic event, such as a car crash, may reduce the risk of developing intrusive flashbacks of the event, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that car crash survivors who played “Tetris” in the emergency room within 6 hours of their crashes had 62 percent fewer flashbacks during the week following the event, compared with car crash survivors who performed a different task in the emergency room.

TetrisThe Washington Post added, “The idea was not that playing Tetris — for the unfamiliar, a block-dropping puzzle game first released in 1984 — wiped anyone’s mind. But, crucially, the game competed for the brain’s visual attention. “Our brain has limited capacity, but that’s a problem we can exploit,” Emily Holmes, a professor of psychology at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and an author of the study, told The Washington Post. “A person can’t think of two visual things at the same time.”

And according to CBS News, “Some of the participants directly credited the game with helping them during the week after their accident. According to the authors, one man said, “I think that playing ‘Tetris’ helped focus my mind and bring some ‘normality’ back to my head. I didn’t dwell on the accident too much while I was in hospital. Playing ‘Tetris’ seemed a bit strange at the time, but looking back, it has been a help.”

Obviously, these studies are not saying every video game can benefit mental health. But the results do seem to dispel the anecdotal belief that video games, in general, are a time suck with no beneficial attributes. We’d love to hear what you think. Generating thoughtful conversations around innovative health ideas will help us take another step toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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