Researchers debate gaming’s effects on the brain

He reports that there aren’t many studies on how playing video games affects attention needed in the classroom. But those that exist–including two conducted at Iowa State–suggest that there is a relation between video gaming and attention problems in school.

He contends that games offer significant promise for education, particularly because they have been found to be such effective teaching tools. But while studies of educational software demonstrate that children do learn from playing educational games, Gentile says that the amount of money spent on educational games is a tiny fraction of the amount spent on a commercial entertainment game. “Therefore,” he wrote, “most educational games aren’t as interesting, fun, or good as even a mediocre commercial game.”

Given all the different effects of video games on the brain cited in the article, Gentile is hopeful it might reduce some dichotomous thinking in the field of video game research.

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“Playing video games is neither good nor bad,” he concluded. “Existing research shows that they are powerful teaching tools, and therefore we need to harness that potential, aiming to maximize the benefits while minimizing the potential harms.”

What the critics say

Video games won’t necessarily improve kids’ grades, concentration, driving skills, or other cognitive abilities, one group of psychologists says.

Some researchers also say they’ve found video games such as current top-seller “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” won’t damage players’ brains or cause them to do real violence.

Those relatively recent findings conflict with other studies on both the positive and negative potential of gaming, but one thing experts on all sides tend to agree about is that the debate and their research is far from over.

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