Researchers debate gaming’s effects on the brain

“Play these games because they are fun and you enjoy doing them, and let’s kind of wait for more research to suggest whether or not they are actually good for us,” said Florida State University psychologist Walter Boot.

Boot and two colleagues say they have turned up flaws in various studies ascribing cognitive benefits to playing video games and that they they’ve been unable to replicate the results. Boot, Florida State doctoral student Daniel Blakely, and University of Illinois researcher Daniel Simons wrote about their findings in a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology in September 2011.

It “happens to be a rather direct attack about our work,” Bavelier, the University of Rochester researcher, wrote in a Dec. 22 eMail from France, where she is on sabbatical.

Bavelier defended studies she and other scientists have conducted that show a causal link between video game playing and enhanced abilities.

She said it is Boot and his colleagues who have flaws in their work and wrote a point-by-point rebuttal of their paper’s detailed findings. It’s also the only negative position paper aligned against multiple, peer-reviewed studies by “world renowned experts,” she wrote.

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“This paper does not present new evidence, or even new analysis it is just an opinionated discussion of existing data,” Bavelier wrote. “Quite simply put, there is not much controversy about the published effects so far.”

December’s edition of the journal Nature Reviews/Neuroscience includes an article on video game research, describing it as being still in its early days. The journal posed several questions to prominent researchers and published their responses.

They include Bavelier, an assistant professor in Rochester’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Science, and University of Minnesota psychologist C. Shawn Green, who submitted joint responses.

They maintained playing action video games “results in a wide range of behavioral benefits, including enhancements in low-level vision, visual attention, speed of processing, and statistical inference.”

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