Game industry blasts brain study claims

The video game industry has hit back at claims that computer games can damage children's brains, and insists that gaming can be beneficial.
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor
LONDON (ZDNet UK)--The video game industry has hit back at claims that computer games can damage children's brains and insists that the activity can be beneficial.

The European Leisure Software Publishers Association said Wednesday that research carried out at Japan's Tohoku University was only of "very limited focus".

The software association asserts it is not true that playing video games can make children anti-social and is instead flagging recent British research that suggests that playing computer games can be as beneficial as taking part in physical sporting activity.

"For too long now, our industry has been the target of ill-informed criticism and scare-mongering," Roger Bennett, director general of the association, said in a statement. "We want to help those who weren't brought up on computer games to understand this exciting new medium and the part that it can play in a healthy balance of learning and leisure activities for all age groups."

Scientists from the Tohoku University said this week that children who spend large amounts of time playing computer games could be causing long-term problems with brain development and might not develop the ability to control their behavior. The researchers claimed that computer games only stimulate those parts of the brain devoted to vision and movement and do not aid the development of other important areas of the brain.

In particular, the researchers fear that video game players are not developing their frontal lobes, which play a crucial role in controlling behavior and in developing memory, emotion and learning.

The researchers also tested children who were carrying out basic arithmetic and found that to be much more beneficial to brain development.

The software association played down the findings.

"The result of this study is actually not that computer games damage the brain, but that half an hour of playing this one particular title was less effective at developing the brain than doing half an hour of repetitive arithmetic," the group said.

"There are many games that involve a variety of skills, reasoning and coordination, while others can be purely educational."

The social side of games
The association is also attempting to dispel the traditional image of the lonely, anti-social game player. It claims that recent British research has discovered that computer games can actually assist physical, mental and social development.

Academics at the University of Central Lancashire and at Manchester University recently found that gamers experience the same high levels of concentration and involvement as athletes do.

"Through the study, gaming emerges as an increasingly social activity, and gamers spend comparable amounts of time socializing with friends and family," the software association said. "The researchers concluded that 'the stereotype of the computer gamer as someone who spends a large amount of leisure time interacting with technology rather than other people is questionable.'"

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