Scientists link computer games to brain damage

New study finds evidence that children who play computer games might not develop the ability to control their behaviour

Latest research has found that children who play computer games could be causing long-term brain damage.

Scientists working at Tohoku University in Japan have discovered that computer games only stimulate those parts of the brain that are devoted to vision and movement, and do not aid the development of other important areas of the brain. The researchers are particularly concerned that by spending many hours playing games some children will not develop their frontal lobes -- which play a crucial role in controlling behaviour, and in developing memory, emotion and learning.

In contract, tasks such as arithmetic will stimulate brain activity in the frontal lobe, which is thought to continue developing until adulthood.

Professor Ryuta Kawashima, who led the team who carried out the research, told The Observer that the discovery was highly important. "There is a problem we will have with a new generation of children -- who play computer games -- that we have never seen before," he said. "The implications are very serious for an increasingly violent society and these students will be doing more and more bad things if they are playing games and not doing other things like reading aloud or learning arithmetic."

Kawashima believes that children must be encouraged to practice basic mathematics, as well as learning reading and writing which also boost the frontal lobe. He is convinced that children who play video games excessively will not develop their frontal lobes and will consequently be more prone to violent acts, as they will be less able to control their behaviour.

Kawashima's study looked at the brain activity of hundreds of students playing a Nintendo game, and compared it to other students who were carrying out basic arithmetic. It found that much more brain activity was needed to solve the simple mathematic tasks than was used to play the computer games, and that activity in the frontal lobe was particularly pronounced.

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