Thursday April 25, 2019

A Video Game can Change the Brain, May Improve Empathy in Middle Schoolers

The researchers found stronger connectivity in empathy-related brain networks after the middle schoolers played "Crystals of Kaydor" compared to "Bastion"

Video game
Video Game May Improve Empathy in Middle Schoolers. Pixabay

Researchers have found that an experimental video game on middle schoolers may improve an understanding of helping others in need, as it boosts connectivity in brain networks related to empathy and perspective taking.

The findings, published in the journal npj Science of Learning, suggests that some showed altered neural networks commonly linked to emotion regulation — a crucial skill that this age group is beginning to develop.

According to the researchers, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US, empathy is the first step in a sequence that can lead to prosocial behavior, such as helping others in need.

“Our long-term aspiration for this work is that video games may be harnessed for good and if the gaming industry and consumers took this message to heart, they could potentially create video games that can change the brain in a ways that support virtuous qualities rather than destructive qualities,” said lead author Richard Davidson, Professor at the varsity.

For the study, the team randomly assigned 150 middle schoolers into two groups to measured how accurate the players were in identifying the emotions of the characters in the experimental game.

Video game
Empathy is the first step in a sequence that can lead to prosocial behavior, such as helping others in need. Pixabay

One played the experimental game, called “Crystals of Kaydor” — which was created for research purposes and intended to teach empathy. The second group played a commercially available and entertaining control game called “Bastion” that does not target empathy.

In “Crystals of Kaydor”, kids interacted with the aliens on the distant planet and learned to identify the intensity of emotions they witnessed on their humanlike faces, such as anger, fear, happiness, surprise, disgust and sadness.

Those who played “Bastion” partook in a storyline where they collected materials needed to build a machine to save their village, but tasks were not designed to teach or measure empathy. The team used the game because of its immersive graphics and third-person perspective.

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The team obtained functional magnetic resonance imaging scans in the laboratory from both groups before and after two weeks of gameplay, looking at connections among areas of the brain, including those associated with empathy and emotion regulation.

The researchers found stronger connectivity in empathy-related brain networks after the middle schoolers played “Crystals of Kaydor” compared to “Bastion”. (IANS)

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World Suicide Prevention Day: Empathizing with the Depressed Can Curtail Chances of Suicide, Suggests Study

The key is to be empathic and not be sympathetic because people in a depressive state of mind only need to be heard

World Suicide Prevention Day
Depressed woman. Pixabay

New Delhi, Sep 10, 2017: If you know someone who is visibly depressed or struggling to cope with challenges of life, do not hesitate to intervene for fear of making things worse. Just hearing them out with empathy can make the difference between life and death, say experts.

In India, more than 100,000 people commit suicide every year, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

“The key is to be empathic and not be sympathetic. People in a depressive state of mind only need to be heard,” said Pallab Maulik, Deputy Director and Head of Research at the George Institute for Global Health India, New Delhi, which conducts research aimed at changing health practices and policy.

As per the Global Burden of Diseases (GBD) data, mental health/suicide is the top reason for mortality among older adolescent girls and the figure remains among the top causes of death in boys as well.

“The number of adolescents committing suicide due to depression is increasing at an alarming rate in our country,” Maulik said on World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.

“Various factors such academic pressures, personal relationship break-ups, pressures at work, interpersonal violence and intimate partner violence are some key reasons for depression amongst adolescents and young adults. Alcohol and drug abuse are some other factors that affect mental health well-being,” Maulik added.

According to the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), compassion and empathy from others helped to turn things around for vulnerable individuals.

Offering a gentle word of support and listening in a non-judgemental way can make all the difference, said the official World Suicide Prevention Day 2017 Website.

Being caring and listening with a non-judgemental ear are far more likely to reduce distress than exacerbate it, it said.

Also Read: What Not to Say to a Grieving Person in Depression? 

“About 800,000 people commit suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds. Those in the 15 to 29 age group are particularly vulnerable,” said Anna Chandy, of Live Love Laugh Foundation, Bengaluru — a not-for-profit organisation founded by Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone.

“There may be people around you who are struggling to cope and display visible signs of being depressed. Noticing such signs, offering support and encouraging them to seek professional help is crucial,” Chandy added.

Maulik said that suicides can be prevented through various measures taken at community and individual level.

“Early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance use disorders is important. Besides listening to the person, observing sudden behaviour change and proper counselling could help prevent a large number of deaths due to suicide,” Maulik added. (IANS)