August 20, 2001 10:05 AM PDT

Researchers: Video games hurt brain development

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Scientists at Japan's Tohoku University said they've found that computer games stimulate only those parts of the brain devoted to vision and movement and do not aid the development of other important areas of the brain.

The researchers are particularly concerned that by spending many hours playing games some children will not develop their frontal lobes, which play a crucial role in controlling behavior and in developing memory, emotion and learning.

In contrast, tasks such as arithmetic stimulate brain activity in the frontal lobe, which is thought to continue developing until adulthood.

Professor Ryuta Kawashima, who led the team that carried out the research, told The Observer that the discovery is highly important.

"There is a problem we will have with a new generation of children--who play computer games--that we have never seen before," he said. "The implications are very serious for an increasingly violent society, and these students will be doing more and more bad things if they are playing games and not doing other things like reading aloud or learning arithmetic."

Kawashima asserts that children must be encouraged to practice basic mathematics, reading and writing to boost the development of the frontal lobe. He is convinced that children who play video games excessively will not develop their frontal lobes and will consequently be more prone to violent acts because they will be less able to control their behavior.

The study looked at the brain activity of hundreds of students playing a Nintendo game and compared it with other students who were carrying out basic arithmetic. It found that much more brain activity was needed to solve the simple mathematic tasks than was used to play the computer games and that activity in the frontal lobe varied significantly.

Staff writer Graeme Wearden reported from London.

15 comments

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Games hurt
Hi my name is Adam, and I play video games excessively. Especially violent ones. I maintain a B+ average in Calculus and an A in all others. Games destroy me? No of course not they only provide as a semi-cheap entertainment tool.
Posted by (1 comment )
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This article lacks details
I have a few points to make
1. Most new video games require more than vision and movement parts of the brain.
2. "The study looked at the brain activity of hundreds of students playing a Nintendo game"
"Nintendo" is not a valid classification for a videogame. Nintendo is a game publisher/developer and is NOT a genre. Next time explain what type of video game. EX Strategy, Action, Shooter, RPG. Or tell us which video game in particular
3. I assume your research children were playing a game such as Mario or Mario 64 or some platform-type game related to that. IF thats true I agree, platform games do not stimulate much of your brain.
4. Your article talks about video games in general, you cannot talk about video games in general because some require almost no thinking and some require a lot of thinking.
5. Strategy and tactical video games such as Warcraft III or Empire earth require way more thought than super Mario or some other platform game like that. They encourage and develop multitasking because you have to manage armies while under attack by other nations, build cities, conquer and divide, manage resources all at the same time. Try and tell me all those different things can be done using only the vision and movement sections of your brain. Those require much more than vision, movement and motor skills.
This research is blasphemy because it generalizes about all videogames.
Posted by JOaguy (1 comment )
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The chance that you're going to get a 5 year-old to play Warcraft III or Empire Earth over Mario Kart is extremely small. The article said they studied children, not teenagers.
Posted by t_sylvia720 (3 comments )
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You are stupid!
I am a MACY honor student at DeWitt Clinton High School and let me tell you, I have been playing videogames my whole life. My favorite videogame has a chick with her head snapped back, and I'm completely normal. Stupids!!!
Posted by dacookiemonsta (2 comments )
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Stupid Is As Stupid Does
What kind of infantile honor student uses name calling like...stupids???

Obviously, you have just proven this article to be true. Your frontal lobe is so underdeveloped that you are actually expressing your violence on the website therefore proving, that in fact, you are having a behavioral problem - not to mention -a pathetically small vocabulary.

Somebody needs to spank your little immature bottom good! I'm sure that the DeWitt Clinton High School is embarrassed by your response. What does MACY stand for anyway? Mean And Childish Youth?
Posted by shiggins1105 (1 comment )
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The frontal lobe controls how you react to people and situations. You instantly getting angry, losing your temper, and calling the scientists stupid shows that you've played video games your whole life. Definitely. Good job proving their point.
Posted by t_sylvia720 (3 comments )
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I disagree with everything you've said
I am a 10th grader @ DeWitt Clinton High School and for my History research class I am writing a paper on the effect videogames have on children. I have done a lot of research on the pro's and con's of videogames and I believe that video games are healthy for a child. Ofcourse there are several videogames that are inappropriate for children and the industry really is trying hard to prevent children from getting their hands on these games but I feel that it isnt their responsibility. Can you say, irresponsible PARENTS?! I have been playing video games my whole life, and it hasnt affected me in any negative way. I'm a MACY honor student, leading a descent life with normal friends and family. This is because my mom has always limited my gaming time and observed what games it was I was playing. Leave the gaming industry alone and start blaming who really is responsible for all this, parents.
Posted by dacookiemonsta (2 comments )
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I have a six year old son who is very much in to video games. He is amazing at reading and math, all that jazz. He does, however, have behavioral problems. I do not feel the video games have effected his learning. I would really love to see someone do a study on the possiblility of video games being a cause of ADD and ADHD. Most of the children I know who have played video games from a young age are actually very smart and I think the games helped in that area. But they all have ADD or ADHD and I feel there has to be a link. If it is found that it can cause these disorders, I would like to know if a time limit can be set to avoid risk of these disorders, or any other guidelines that can be used to avoid the risks. Perhaps children should avoid video games until a certain age, I do not know. I am just a mother, nothing more.
Posted by MFaler0 (1 comment )
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Please, please, please do yourself a huge favor and read Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods. He explains the link between ADD and video games and what you can do about it. It's a very important read for any parent today.
Posted by huhitschris (1 comment )
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No, I am pretty sure that video games do not cause ADHD. I feel that I am right about this for two reasons. One: I am ADHD and my mom denied me video gamees till I was in High School. I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was in 2nd grade. The only games I got to play, before high school,were at friends' houses and I really didn't play a whole lot. Two: I just think that video games is a good way for kids with ADD/ADHD to exert their brain energy. I don't know about some others with ADHD, but my brain likes to work at 100 mph. Also, games are fun. Even now, while in college, I find video games very relaxing.
Posted by TheGreatSanti44 (1 comment )
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well i agreed with MFaler0 in some ways. i am twenty years old and video games have hurt who i am at age now. i grew up a constant gamer and I was a loner in highschool because of my shyness, but when i grew out of being shy i realize it played a big role in me maturing. I'm very bright but i seem to get hyper around groups of people. it good for kids to play video games but you have to balance it along with hobbies. It took me awhile to realize this myself, i'm living proof.
Posted by nickxjackson (1 comment )
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nick, i have to disagree with you. Not only have i actively played since i was a young child, i have also been an extremely shy person since even before that. i would not accredit my shyness to my video game tendencies, as i was often picked on for a speech problem i had in elementary school. in fact, all through elementary school and middle school i was extremely reclusive. but as i played more video games with flamboyant main characters, i often idolized them, and tried to emulate them to become more open. im now an 18 year old college student who is dramatically different from my shy self from the past, and i would most definitely give some credit to the video games i've played over the years.
Posted by GamerGeekRM (1 comment )
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Totally true Im a living example of what computer games can do to an individual. Im 26yrs old now but having been living like this for the last 8 years. Ever since I was very young I have always played and loved computer games. Not knowing anything about the harmful effects. When I was 14 though I fell out with my mates and turned to computer games. And started to play them more often than usual. Im talking about 4-7 hours a day or even 10 hours some days. Well I noticed a changed in my behaviour over the years. Ever since I was playing on my computer and my fore head was really sore. After that I had trouble communicating with people and making new friends. But never draw the conclusion to computer games. It wasnt just relationship problems but my college work and working problems. Anyway these's problems got worse and worse over the years. I had headaches really bad concertration and it felt like I was going crazy. Until one day I was 19 and I was playing on my computer I felt my right side of my brain just go. I was basically gritting my teeth with pain and switch my computer off. But it was to late I have been living for the last 8years with no feeling. I cant feel no emotion my concertration was none exsitented and I havent aged from when I 14 mentally and physically. I have problems with work never had a girlfriend and still cant pass my driving test after 13 goes. Basically its taken every think away from learning, speech, concertration basically anything to do with my frontal lobe and right side of my brain have switch off. But after 8years Im getting better over the years thank god but still cant feel or feel no emotion. And still have work problems and relationship problems. Anyway I think computer games a really bad for kids and should be re assesst soon because I think in the future alot of kids will grow up life less.
Posted by surefirepaul (1 comment )
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I still dident get how video games were bad, I nor my kids own any sysstems so Im not defending them I just wasted more info.
Posted by juliemccully (1 comment )
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Actually, if you had read the entire article, you would see that video games hinder the growth of the frontal lobe. The article also explains that the frontal lobe controls how you react to things; your behavior, recognizing consequences, etc. People with low frontal (or prefrontal) lobe growth are usually temperamental, violent, bullies, brats, or self-centered jerks. So no, you playing video games your whole life has nothing to do with your grades, and has everything to do with how you interact in the world. Whether you can admit when you're wrong, have empathy for people other than yourself, and make sacrifices to make someone else happy.
Posted by t_sylvia720 (3 comments )
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