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Playing video games can help boost memory, says research

During the test of gamers and non-gamers, the gamers performed significantly better and showed an increased brain activity in the brain areas relevant to learning

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Video games help boost memory
Video games help boost memory. Pixabay
  • Researchers have found that playing video games can help boost memory in the young as well as in the elderly
  • The gamers performed significantly better during the test of gamers and non-gamers
  • The gamers also showed an increased brain activity in the brain areas relevant to learning

London, October 2, 2017: Tired of watching your child play video games? Instead, join them, as researchers have found that playing video games can help boost memory in the young as well as in the elderly.

“Our study shows that gamers are better in analysing a situation quickly, to generate new knowledge, and to categorise facts — especially in situations with high uncertainties,” said lead author Sabrina Schenk from Ruhr-Universität, Bochum, Germany.

During the test of gamers and non-gamers, the gamers performed significantly better and showed an increased brain activity in the brain areas relevant to learning.

This kind of learning is linked to an increased activity in the hippocampus — a brain region that plays a key role in learning and memory.

“We think that playing video games trains certain brain regions like the hippocampus. That is not only important for young people, but also for older people; this is because changes in the hippocampus can lead to a decrease in memory performance. Maybe, we can treat that with video games in the future,” Schenk added.

Both teams did the so-called weather prediction task, a well-established test to investigate the learning of probabilities. The researchers simultaneously recorded the brain activity of the participants via magnetic resonance imaging.

Also read: ‘Games of Change’ Festival at New York Gives Gamers a Reality Check by Introducing Video Games based on Social and Civic Issues

The participants were shown a combination of three cue cards with different symbols. They should estimate whether the card combination predicted sun or rain and got a feedback if their choice was right or wrong.

They gradually learned, on the basis of the feedback, which card combination stands for which weather prediction.

The combinations were thereby linked to higher or lower probabilities for sun and rain.

After completing the task, the study participants filled out a questionnaire to sample their acquired knowledge about the cue card combinations.

Also, the gamers were notably better in combining the cue cards with the weather predictions than the control group. (IANS)

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High-Frequency Magnetic Pulses May Treat “Hearing of Voices” Condition of Schizophrenia Patients: Study

People with schizophrenia experience delusions, muddled thoughts, and hallucinations

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"Hearing of voices" condition experienced by schizophrenia patients. Pixabay

London, Sep 06, 2017: Researchers have found that high-frequency magnetic pulses can improve “hearing of voices” condition experienced by many patients with schizophrenia.

The research presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) conference in Paris identified the area of the brain involved in the condition in some patients.

Also Read: New hormone test may distinguish schizophrenia, depression  

“This is the first controlled trial to precisely determine an anatomically defined brain area where high frequency magnetic pulses can improve the hearing of voices,” said lead researcher Sonia Dollfus, Professor at Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Caen in France.

Schizophrenia is a serious long-term mental health problem. People with schizophrenia experience a range of symptoms, which may include delusions, muddled thoughts and hallucinations.

One of the best-known is hearing voices, also known as Auditory Verbal Hallucination (AVH), which around 70 per cent of people with schizophrenia experience at some point.

These voices, may be ‘heard’ as having a variety of different characteristics, for example as internal or external, friendly or threatening, they may be continuously present or present only occasionally, and so on.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which uses magnetic pulses to the brain, has been suggested as a possible way of treating the hearing of voices in schizophrenia.

However, there is a lack of controlled trials to show that TMS works effectively in treating “hearing of voices”.

The French research team worked with a small group of patients who received active TMS treatment. A control group received sham (placebo) treatment.

The researchers interviewed the patients using a standard protocol — the Auditory Hallucinations Rating Scale — which revealed most of the characteristic features of the voices which they were hearing.

The treated patients received a series of 20 Hz high-frequency magnetic pulses over two sessions a day for two days.

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the pulses were targetted at a specific brain area in the temporal lobe, which is associated with language.

After two weeks, the patients were re-evaluated. The researchers found that 34.6 per cent of the patients being treated by TMS showed a significant response, whereas only 9.1 per cent of patients in the sham group responded. (IANS)

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Mind Wandering While Driving is Very Usual, Says New Research

A new George Mason University research reveals that mind wandering while driving is a very common phenomenon.

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Mind Wandering while driving a very common phenomenon
Mind wandering may be an unavoidable part of the human brain. But how safe is mind-wandering while driving? Pixabay.
  • Mind wandering while driving is a very common phenomenon
  • According to a new research, one’s mind wanders almost 70% of the time while driving
  • Self-driven cars can help reduce chances of road accidents due to mind-wandering

Washington D.C., USA, September 2, 2017: Have you ever experienced mind wandering while you are driving? Imagine driving on a smooth road with minimum traffic density when suddenly some distraction happens and you lose control of your vehicle and your brain for few seconds.

Why does this happen? Have you ever realized that one reason could be that at the same time when one is physically driving, their mind is also riding in some different world?

A recent research by George Mason University revealed that an average person’s mind wanders 70% of the time while driving, says Carl Baldwin, a researcher involved in this research.

Of course, the research was not conducted during real-time driving on the road. The researchers used driving simulators and electro-physiological monitoring system to measure electrical activity in the brain.

In the five days long research, the volunteers were asked to complete a 20-minute driving simulation along a monotonous straight highway at a constant speed during which they were also hooked up to the electro-physiological monitor.

It was done to mimic a real-life scenario in an attempt to make the volunteers feel as if they were traveling to and from the work place. In between, they were asked to write down a written test, so as to include the mentally draining effect of the day’s work in the experiment.

The volunteers heard a buzzer at random intervals throughout the experiment. Every time the buzzer sounded, the tablet computer would indicate if participant’s mind had been wandering right before they heard the buzzer and if so, were they explicitly aware of this or not.

Scientists detected that human mind wanders during driving from the volunteer’s brain activity. As a result, it was found that while on the simulated drive, people’s mind wandered 70% of the time. Interestingly, the study found that the volunteer’s minds wandered more during the second drive of the simulation i.e. when they drove back home from office. And, on an average, they were aware of their wandering mind only 65% of the time, says Carl Baldwin, a researcher involved in this research.

“We were able to detect periods of mind wandering through distinctive electro-physiological brain patterns, some of which indicated that the drivers were likely less receptive to external stimuli,” says Baldwin.

Beware! Mind wandering during driving can lead to dangerous road accidents.

One option that can improve safety on road in future is an autonomous transport system. A self-driving car is an example of it. These cars would allow one to do mind wandering when it is safe to do so but would re-engage one back in driving when one needs to pay attention.

-prepared by Shivani Chowdhary of NewsGram. Twitter handle: @cshivani31

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‘Games of Change’ Festival at New York Gives Gamers a Reality Check by Introducing Video Games based on Social and Civic Issues

The Games for Change festival didn’t shy away from difficult or touchy topics and set to herald the beginning of a new trend in the gaming world

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Games of change festival
New video games are increasingly seeking to target issues of social injustice in a user-friendly interface . VOA

New York, August 8, 2017: You’re in Nepal. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake has just struck your village and you must rescue the survivors. This is “After Days,” a video game based on the real-life Nepal earthquake that killed almost 9,000 people in 2015.

Minseok Do was showing the game at the recent Games for Change festival in New York City. The games on display were a far cry from “Mario Brothers” and “Call of Duty.” These developers featured titles that tackled civic and social issues.

Public consciousness about civic and social issues has long been raised by the news and entertainment industries in the United States and other parts of the world, and now video game creators are making their own statements and hoping to reach the younger digital generation in the process.

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In “After Days,” players take on the role of Ahsha, a young Nepalese woman who attempts to rescue her neighbors in the aftermath of the massive earthquake.

“Other media, such as novels and movies, require consumers to use their imagination to understand characters’ emotions,” said Do, CEO of GamBridzy. “Games have players be in characters’ shoes by letting them command and control. It is, in my opinion, the most powerful platform.”

Video games draw increasing attention from children and adults alike.
The intent of these games is to expose children to the ‘real issues of the world. Pixabay

In the game, players carry out various missions like transporting injured victims in stretchers and coordinating with rescue teams to restore critical infrastructure.

The first episode is set in Sindhupalchok, one of the hardest-hit districts of the earthquake in Nepal.

“Some say it will take about 10 years to complete all the restoration, but international attention is not focused on this, and it is important that we show our interest and support,” said Do. Twenty percent of proceeds from game sales will go toward rebuilding efforts.

Elin Festøy, a producer from Norway, also was in New York to promote her game.

“We really wanted to create attention and awareness around children born of war … children being born of the most hated soldiers in the world,” said Festøy.

She and her team created “My Child Lebensborn,” a mobile game in which players are the caretakers of World War Two-era children from the Lebensborn project, an attempt by the Nazi regime to create an Aryan “master race.”

Lebensborn involved child kidnappings as well as anonymous births by unwed mothers in and outside of Germany, with their offspring adopted by German families. After the war, many Lebensborn children faced prejudice and discrimination, even from their own mothers.

“It’s about being able to see children as children and not as symbols of [the] enemy,” said Festøy.

“My Child Lebensborn” is targeted at players aged 13 and up. Recognizing that 13-year-olds might not exactly run to play the game, one of the team’s goals includes creating a bundle for schools that includes both the game and an accompanying film on the Lebensborn project.

Video games at the Games for Change festival didn’t shy away from difficult or touchy topics. Indeed, they were a vehicle for discussion and dialogue.

“The problem in a lot of developing countries is that people do not talk about issues. People do not want to share their problems out of embarrassment,” said Dr. Ilmana Fasih, a director at ZMQ.

The New Delhi-based consulting company developed “YourStoryTeller,” a mobile app that is less video game than a digital narrative.

User-contributed stories are transformed into comic strips. Each week, a new story addresses women’s issues in India, a country where patriarchal attitudes are common.

In one example, a young woman’s studies are disrupted for an arranged marriage that takes her from India to Canada, where she is physically abused by her new husband.

Fasih acknowledged the stories are definitely not of the Disney fairytale variety, and they definitely have a point of view.

“Kids grow up watching those stories. We want kids to grow up watching these stories where there are struggles,” said Fasih. “A young boy is able to understand what are the struggles that his mom, his sisters go through. That is probably one of the best ways to defeat patriarchy.” (VOA)