Wednesday, May 07, 2008

BPN 1091 Games lead to defective brain development

Yesterday’s posting on stress relief by casual games yielded criticism. Hans Sleurink, my business partner and developer of a minor on media education, wrote me that he had serious doubts about the wholesome effect of videogames. I translate his message: "What is the relationship between the university and games producer? Many universities are dependent on private donations. The second point of doubt is the dominance in the techno-culture in the USA. In such an environment with such a strong spirit of times – which I call the invisible prison – there is no critical gravitation when it comes to such results.

My doubts are even larger now that the British neuro scientist Susan Greenfield has published a study, showing that repetitive use of (a certain kind of) digital games by children will lead to a defective development in the brains. Central is the issue of an over production of dopamine, which has an effect on the defective developement of the pre-frontal cortex; this part has to do with the development of identity and the power of empathy. Greenfield argues that the lack of empathy plays a role in the unbridled violence, which is more often part of youth life. And from here she makes a link to the computer games".

Susan Greenfield is a professor at Oxford University, chair person of the British Royal Institute and a key researcher for remedies against Alzheimer and Parkinson. In her book ID: The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century, which will be published on 15th May by Sceptre (Hardback, £16.99), she warns that computer addiction will influence the development of the brains differently, which means in her terms ‘less well’. The brains have a great flexibility, but an important change in our environment and our behaviour will have inevitable consequences for the brain, she argues. This will lead to negative consequences like replacement of real contacts for virtual experiences, the influence of pre-cooked menu choices instead of a free choice or communicating with texts without verbs and other elements necessary for a complex reasoning.

The baroness attacks games and especially against the dominance of procedure over content. The more time, she argues, is spent on gaming, the less time is left to learn specific facts and learn the links between the facts. In this way the next generation is no longer able to elaborate on conceptual frames, which are the basis of our education and our individual identity.

This debate will continue, I am sure. It is not only a scientific debate between a USA university and Oxford University, but I guess also a fight between cultures. On May 19 there will be a survey taken among 600 children living in The Netherlands from the age of 8 to 12 years. I hope to be able toi publish the results as soon as the report is out.

Blog Posting Number: 1091

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