Your brain on video games | Daphne Bavelier

Your brain on video games | Daphne Bavelier


Translator: Joseph Geni
Reviewer: Morton Bast I’m a brain scientist, and as a brain scientist, I’m actually interested in how the brain learns, and I’m especially interested in a possibility of making our brains smarter, better and faster. This is in this context I’m going to tell you about video games. When we say video games, most of you think about children. It’s true. Ninety percent of children do play video games. But let’s be frank. When the kids are in bed, who is in front of the PlayStation? Most of you. The average age of a gamer is 33 years old, not eight years old, and in fact, if we look at the projected demographics of video game play, the video game players of tomorrow are older adults. (Laughter) So video [gaming] is pervasive throughout our society. It is clearly here to stay. It has an amazing impact on our everyday life. Consider these statistics released by Activision. After one month of release of the game “Call Of Duty: Black Ops,” it had been played for 68,000 years worldwide, right? Would any of you complain if this was the case about doing linear algebra? So what we are asking in the lab is, how can we leverage that power? Now I want to step back a bit. I know most of you have had the experience of coming back home and finding your kids playing these kinds of games. (Shooting noises) The name of the game is to get after your enemy zombie bad guys before they get to you, right? And I’m almost sure most of you have thought, “Oh, come on, can’t you do something more intelligent than shooting at zombies?” I’d like you to put this kind of knee-jerk reaction in the context of what you would have thought if you had found your girl playing sudoku or your boy reading Shakespeare. Right? Most parents would find that great. Well, I’m not going to tell you that playing video games days in and days out is actually good for your health. It’s not, and binging is never good. But I’m going to argue that in reasonable doses, actually the very game I showed you at the beginning, those action-packed shooter games have quite powerful effects and positive effects on many different aspects of our behavior. There’s not one week that goes without some major headlines in the media about whether video games are good or bad for you, right? You’re all bombarded with that. I’d like to put this kind of Friday night bar discussion aside and get you to actually step into the lab. What we do in the lab is actually measure directly, in a quantitative fashion, what is the impact of video games on the brain. And so I’m going to take a few examples from our work. One first saying that I’m sure you all have heard is the fact that too much screen time makes your eyesight worse. That’s a statement about vision. There may be vision scientists among you. We actually know how to test that statement. We can step into the lab and measure how good your vision is. Well, guess what? People that don’t play a lot of action games, that don’t actually spend a lot of time in front of screens, have normal, or what we call corrective-to-normal vision. That’s okay. The issue is what happens with these guys that actually indulge into playing video games like five hours per week, 10 hours per week, 15 hours per week. By that statement, their vision should be really bad, right? Guess what? Their vision is really, really good. It’s better than those that don’t play. And it’s better in two different ways. The first way is that they’re actually able to resolve small detail in the context of clutter, and though that means being able to read the fine print on a prescription rather than using magnifier glasses, you can actually do it with just your eyesight. The other way that they are better is actually being able to resolve different levels of gray. Imagine you’re driving in a fog. That makes a difference between seeing the car in front of you and avoiding the accident, or getting into an accident. So we’re actually leveraging that work to develop games for patients with low vision, and to have an impact on retraining their brain to see better. Clearly, when it comes to action video games, screen time doesn’t make your eyesight worse. Another saying that I’m sure you have all heard around: Video games lead to attention problems and greater distractability. Okay, we know how to measure attention in the lab. I’m actually going to give you an example of how we do so. I’m going to ask you to participate, so you’re going to have to actually play the game with me. I’m going to show you colored words. I want you to shout out the color of the ink. Right? So this is the first example. [“Chair”] Orange, good. [“Table”] Green. [“Board”] Audience: Red.Daphne Bavelier: Red. [“Horse”] DB: Yellow. Audience: Yellow. [“Yellow”] DB: Red. Audience: Yellow. [“Blue”] DB: Yellow. Okay, you get my point, right? (Laughter) You’re getting better, but it’s hard. Why is it hard? Because I introduced a conflict between the word itself and its color. How good your attention is determines actually how fast you resolve that conflict, so the young guys here at the top of their game probably, like, did a little better than some of us that are older. What we can show is that when you do this kind of task with people that play a lot of action games, they actually resolve the conflict faster. So clearly playing those action games doesn’t lead to attention problems. Actually, those action video game players have many other advantages in terms of attention, and one aspect of attention which is also improved for the better is our ability to track objects around in the world. This is something we use all the time. When you’re driving, you’re tracking, keeping track of the cars around you. You’re also keeping track of the pedestrian, the running dog, and that’s how you can actually be safe driving, right? In the lab, we get people to come to the lab, sit in front of a computer screen, and we give them little tasks that I’m going to get you to do again. You’re going to see yellow happy faces and a few sad blue faces. These are children in the schoolyard in Geneva during a recess during the winter. Most kids are happy. It’s actually recess. But a few kids are sad and blue because they’ve forgotten their coat. Everybody begins to move around, and your task is to keep track of who had a coat at the beginning and who didn’t. So I’m just going to show you an example where there is only one sad kid. It’s easy because you can actually track it with your eyes. You can track, you can track, and then when it stops, and there is a question mark, and I ask you, did this kid have a coat or not? Was it yellow initially or blue? I hear a few yellow. Good. So most of you have a brain. (Laughter) I’m now going to ask you to do the task, but now with a little more challenging task. There are going to be three of them that are blue. Don’t move your eyes. Please don’t move your eyes. Keep your eyes fixated and expand, pull your attention. That’s the only way you can actually do it. If you move your eyes, you’re doomed. Yellow or blue? Audience: Yellow.DB: Good. So your typical normal young adult can have a span of about three or four objects of attention. That’s what we just did. Your action video game player has a span of about six to seven objects of attention, which is what is shown in this video here. That’s for you guys, action video game players. A bit more challenging, right? (Laughter) Yellow or blue? Blue. We have some people that are serious out there. Yeah. (Laughter) Good. So in the same way that we actually see the effects of video games on people’s behavior, we can use brain imaging and look at the impact of video games on the brain, and we do find many changes, but the main changes are actually to the brain networks that control attention. So one part is the parietal cortex which is very well known to control the orientation of attention. The other one is the frontal lobe, which controls how we sustain attention, and another one is the anterior cingulate, which controls how we allocate and regulate attention and resolve conflict. Now, when we do brain imaging, we find that all three of these networks are actually much more efficient in people that play action games. This actually leads me to a rather counterintuitive finding in the literature about technology and the brain. You all know about multitasking. You all have been faulty of multitasking when you’re driving and you pick up your cellphone. Bad idea. Very bad idea. Why? Because as your attention shifts to your cell phone, you are actually losing the capacity to react swiftly to the car braking in front of you, and so you’re much more likely to get engaged into a car accident. Now, we can measure that kind of skills in the lab. We obviously don’t ask people to drive around and see how many car accidents they have. That would be a little costly proposition. But we design tasks on the computer where we can measure, to millisecond accuracy, how good they are at switching from one task to another. When we do that, we actually find that people that play a lot of action games are really, really good. They switch really fast, very swiftly. They pay a very small cost. Now I’d like you to remember that result, and put it in the context of another group of technology users, a group which is actually much revered by society, which are people that engage in multimedia-tasking. What is multimedia-tasking? It’s the fact that most of us, most of our children, are engaged with listening to music at the same time as they’re doing search on the web at the same time as they’re chatting on Facebook with their friends. That’s a multimedia-tasker. There was a first study done by colleagues at Stanford and that we replicated that showed that those people that identify as being high multimedia-taskers are absolutely abysmal at multitasking. When we measure them in the lab, they’re really bad. Right? So these kinds of results really makes two main points. The first one is that not all media are created equal. You can’t compare the effect of multimedia-tasking and the effect of playing action games. They have totally different effects on different aspects of cognition, perception and attention. Even within video games, I’m telling you right now about these action-packed video games. Different video games have a different effect on your brains. So we actually need to step into the lab and really measure what is the effect of each video game. The other lesson is that general wisdom carries no weight. I showed that to you already, like we looked at the fact that despite a lot of screen time, those action gamers have a lot of very good vision, etc. Here, what was really striking is that these undergraduates that actually report engaging in a lot of high multimedia-tasking are convinced they aced the test. So you show them their data, you show them they are bad and they’re like, “Not possible.” You know, they have this sort of gut feeling that, really, they are doing really, really good. That’s another argument for why we need to step into the lab and really measure the impact of technology on the brain. Now in a sense, when we think about the effect of video games on the brain, it’s very similar to the effect of wine on the health. There are some very poor uses of wine. There are some very poor uses of video games. But when consumed in reasonable doses, and at the right age, wine can be very good for health. There are actually specific molecules that have been identified in red wine as leading to greater life expectancy. So it’s the same way, like those action video games have a number of ingredients that are actually really powerful for brain plasticity, learning, attention, vision, etc., and so we need and we’re working on understanding what are those active ingredients so that we can really then leverage them to deliver better games, either for education or for rehabilitation of patients. Now because we are interested in having an impact for education or rehabilitation of patients, we are actually not that interested in how those of you that choose to play video games for many hours on end perform. I’m much more interested in taking any of you and showing that by forcing you to play an action game, I can actually change your vision for the better, whether you want to play that action game or not, right? That’s the point of rehabilitation or education. Most of the kids don’t go to school saying, “Great, two hours of math!” So that’s really the crux of the research, and to do that, we need to go one more step. And one more step is to do training studies. So let me illustrate that step with a task which is called mental rotation. Mental rotation is a task where I’m going to ask you, and again you’re going to do the task, to look at this shape. Study it, it’s a target shape, and I’m going to present to you four different shapes. One of these four different shapes is actually a rotated version of this shape. I want you to tell me which one: the first one, second one, third one or fourth one? Okay, I’ll help you. Fourth one. One more. Get those brains working. Come on. That’s our target shape. Third. Good! This is hard, right? Like, the reason that I asked you to do that is because you really feel your brain cringing, right? It doesn’t really feel like playing mindless action video games. Well, what we do in these training studies is, people come to the lab, they do tasks like this one, we then force them to play 10 hours of action games. They don’t play 10 hours of action games in a row. They do distributed practice, so little shots of 40 minutes several days over a period of two weeks. Then, once they are done with the training, they come back a few days later and they are tested again on a similar type of mental rotation task. So this is work from a colleague in Toronto. What they showed is that, initially, you know, subjects perform where they are expected to perform given their age. After two weeks of training on action video games, they actually perform better, and the improvement is still there five months after having done the training. That’s really, really important. Why? Because I told you we want to use these games for education or for rehabilitation. We need to have effects that are going to be long-lasting. Now, at this point, a number of you are probably wondering well, what are you waiting for, to put on the market a game that would be good for the attention of my grandmother and that she would actually enjoy, or a game that would be great to rehabilitate the vision of my grandson who has amblyopia, for example? Well, we’re working on it, but here is a challenge. There are brain scientists like me that are beginning to understand what are the good ingredients in games to promote positive effects, and that’s what I’m going to call the broccoli side of the equation. There is an entertainment software industry which is extremely deft at coming up with appealing products that you can’t resist. That’s the chocolate side of the equation. The issue is we need to put the two together, and it’s a little bit like with food. Who really wants to eat chocolate-covered broccoli? None of you. (Laughter) And you probably have had that feeling, right, picking up an education game and sort of feeling, hmm, you know, it’s not really fun, it’s not really engaging. So what we need is really a new brand of chocolate, a brand of chocolate that is irresistible, that you really want to play, but that has all the ingredients, the good ingredients that are extracted from the broccoli that you can’t recognize but are still working on your brains. And we’re working on it, but it takes brain scientists to come and to get together, people that work in the entertainment software industry, and publishers, so these are not people that usually meet every day, but it’s actually doable, and we are on the right track. I’d like to leave you with that thought, and thank you for your attention. (Applause) (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Your brain on video games | Daphne Bavelier

  1. Why do you think the people who make up this crap send there kids to schools that have no computers? They know its poison.

  2. all these comments here. my mom, my mom. well att 33 i play 5+ hrs a day and My mom probably hasn't stopped play since i last saw her. shes probably got 6k hrs in skyrim by now lol

  3. Ive always had a theory that the longer u spend spotting that guys head peeking out of the bush at 100 meters would help improve your eye sight and reaction time. Guess i wasnt too far fetched with that one.

  4. it's more about the content of the games, furthermore their lack of values and destructive nature, in many cases.

  5. Kudos where it's due – my knowledge of psychosis was infinitely expanded by a video game that set out to do just that, so, yes with the right marketing and target audience, this is theoretically workable.

  6. By the age of 11 I could read and spell as good as an average adult, just because of how much Minecraft, Terraria and Destiny I played.

  7. 5:13 false, it actually made me put math into the game and give me better perspective and focus so i could improve on those parts of the game.

  8. I swear to God if she talks about how video games are quote unquote says video games are bad Imma have to throw some hands

  9. Try playing the stock market. How fast can you find a stock that is likely to go up, how fast can you place the order? How good are your evaluations of tools that help you do that finding? Tweaking them to alert you. A quick evaluation of alerts and their cost. How fast you can get out and how many can you do at the same time? Combine this to a boring stock that takes days to pop up and locks your capital. The chocolate is the money you can make. The market is open for a few hours, so recording all the price changes and volumes in order to create a game with reality when real time and money to play with is not available (boring). This is a skill that will pay off at retirement time.

  10. The vision part of being a gamer is true. My hand eye coordination is good enough to the point where people can’t even tell that I need them. I can drive effortlessly because as long as I see movement I’m good. Only downside is being able to read signs.

  11. LOL dont believe this Scum..! ☝️ Video games can help against. depression.. for me War games is like Oxygen.. machine..apparatus..👌 "this is i live.. this is where we live " i have some Outcast Friend just like me i meet them in online. in the real world..specialy in love life.. no one like us.. we are just Outcast in their eyes. inside video games we built "Brotherhood" and now 2019 we gonna download the most violent gunslinger.. in video game. the Red dead Redemption 2 . Praise God ! Halleuija. ! it will come on PC.

  12. I can tell you why some feminists object to prostitution: men enjoy it. If they could, they would abolish football for the same reason.

  13. OKAY YOUTUBE IM GONNA FREAKIN WATCH IT, U HAPPY NOW!!?
    Hey guys I have a small gaming YouTube channel, come check me out. I post mostly Cod but I take request of what people want me to play. Preciate it.

  14. good news,,but what the real problem is,,, i had a computer 4 years to record my own music,then in 2003 i went on line,,,dont get a tenth of the music done any more,,and my point is "while you play games your life vanishes,and then you find you missed it"

  15. Games are great! They are also addicting, and our brain chemistry will find rewards in them. Smartphones have become like videogames too, and people can't stay away. Cultures have NOT learned to balance this yet.

  16. Video games are little more than mental masturbation; I've got no problem if you want to bash one out, but please, don't try to tell me it makes you a better and/or more creative human being. It is what it is.

  17. Doctors told me when I was ypung that I had ADHD. I told them I spend hours of the day staring at one screen. Games are good for the soul.

  18. Elon Musk lets his kids play video games and even plays with them but the deal is they must read more than they play video games and they aren’t allowed to play stupid games like Cookie where you literally tap a fucking cookie.

  19. It's nice to see people care to do this analytically instead of boomers talking about how terrible games are with no evidence

  20. I'm an in top set for everything apart from English in my schools and all of the other boys (not to be sexist) in my set play games religiously and love to play them we play together and I play video games more than I revise and we're all smart and the kids in the lower sets (again no offense) spend more time outside (Again it is better to spend time outside) are dumber and it's just a small case but I do genuinely think video games could improve your knowledge. And I would like to see some tests on that theory

  21. I am so easily addicted to CS:GO, series, I have been playing over 10 years! what actually it did to me is it had sucked so many hours of my youth

  22. There is a game that is both chocolate and broccoli; It's called Minecraft. Modify it with mods such as Electric Age, then you can have fun and learn at the same time.

  23. It sucks for me cause my dad is a scientist so when I keep telling him that I'm depressed, he blames it on video games and says stuff like "when you play games and win in them you get a boost of dopamine constantly, but when you're not playing you get sad bla bla bla chemicals bla" so hes now reducing my game time 'little by little' which makes me feel even worse because now I cant spend more time doing one of my favorite hobbies. I'm not even playing games constantly anyway, I'm always playing the piano or doing martial arts and getting my homework done and getting good grades but hes just punishing me for being depressed. I got home from MA and was gonna get on but he stopped me from doing so and here I am now venting lol

  24. I think due to the absolute idiocy we hear about games make hearing good stuff refreshing. But don’t think that hearing something negative about video games is somehow government bullcrap censorship. Games have many, many, many negatives. And playing more than a few hours a day gives very little benefit.

  25. My father is basically a genius. He is a massive critical thinker, almost finished with his PhD in Physics, has his Masters in Chemistry and has the philosophical wisdom of the Greeks. I swear my soul on this and if anything I’m probably not giving him enough credit than he deserves for how much he’s done. You know what’s his favorite past time apart being with his family? Video games. He’s also a baby boomer. I grew up watching him play CoD 1-3, fighter jet games, and World of Tanks. The reason I’m addicted to gaming is him XD

  26. Just an info to all parents.
    I was playing games all the time, when I was a kid and my parents weren't happy.
    At one point I got bored and started coding in HTML, then CSS, jQuery, PHP, native Javascript, OO PHP and Javascript, NodeJS, SQL databases, noSQL databases, SYSOPS, linux and so on.
    I'm now called full-stack web developer and it's still my hobby, I own a company that I'm running with my father and I'm responsible for the website, shop and many other things.
    I'm now 25 and still playing for 3-5h games daily, why?
    Not because I'm lazy, but because I'm introverted.
    Some people become programmers, others become graphics designers, etc. gaming isn't always bad.

  27. Winter, totally frozen road covered with snow. I was bit reckless, slowly accelerated on 70kph… One moment I hit snow bump on road, and I started to drift uncontrollable. Instantly all my NFS playing hours awoke from deep, and I started to do pro drift, trying to keep car on road. Did job pretty well, but still center of mass drag me to edge of road where it ended with just mild bump on snow, no car turning around, no turning car over, pro movements 🙂

  28. In Nov. 2019 she is being rewarded with a prize for her work.
    "Prof. Daphne Bavelier receives the 2019 Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize endowed with one million Swiss Francs for her research on leveraging action video games to promote brain plasticity and learning."
    Source: https://jacobsfoundation.org/en/daphne-bavelier-receives-2019-research-prize/

    (I wonder what happened to that game she is trying to develop for 7 years now?)

  29. Some people don’t understand the creativity that goes into many video games. From 50 piece orchestras, voice acting as well as concept artist and animators.

  30. I thought this was gunna say a lot of negative stuff about video games but it was the opposite interesting ted talk good stuff and wine even got some good rep

  31. Damn! I was sure that after watching this iam sure I will never again play any video game to be a good father. Maybe I just have to wait 10 years to play again and with my sons. Lol!

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