Games improve education

How computer games affect the brain

Do computer games spoil youth?

The fact that computer games spoil young people "cannot be denied by any reasonable person," said the then Federal Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maizière, after the rampage in Munich. Such criticism often comes in when a violent criminal turns out to be an excessive computer gamer.

But the problem is not the computer game, but the excessive, explained neuroscientist Daphne Bavelier in a public lecture. She compares computer games to drinking wine: "There are unsightly uses for wine," she said, "but if you consume wine in a reasonable amount, it can be very healthy."

Computer game clichés on the laboratory test bench

Daphne Bavelier holds degrees from the most prestigious elite universities and is a professor in Switzerland and the USA. It is difficult to accuse such a person of a lack of common sense. In experiments she examined common clichés:

• Do computer games harm your eyesight? Findings: People who spend five to 15 hours a week playing action games have better eyesight. They can see small details better and distinguish more shades of gray than non-gamers. So a clear no.

• Do computer games disturb the ability to concentrate? To this end, Daphne Bavelier examined how well the test subjects resolve cognitive contradictions and how well they follow moving objects. The gamers performed significantly better. She also found that gamers can switch from one task to another faster, and that the regions of the brain that control attention work better with them.

What the PISA study reveals about computer clichés

In Melbourne, the economist Alberto Posso compared the results of the PISA study for 15-year-old Australian schoolchildren with their computer game habits: Computer gamers then had better grades in mathematics and science as well as better reading comprehension.

All of these findings initially prove that computer games do no harm. But are they also useful? Neuroscientist Simone Kühn investigated this question at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. Your result: The game "Super Mario 3D" lets the brain regions responsible for spatial imagination, strategic planning and finger control grow.

She noticed that having fun plays a role. Because test subjects in a comparison group who let them play a different, boring computer game had no fun with it. And their brains showed no changes either. So brain growth and fun are interrelated. For the time being, it remains unclear what is cause and what is effect.

In another experiment, Simone Kühn's subjects were at least 65 years old. You should practice correcting wrongdoing, the so-called inhibition.

Here you get several proofs: Computer games can not only train specific brain functions. Due to the mature age of the participants, it is also clear that the breakdown processes in the brain of older people can be counteracted.

In addition, her test subjects were actually able to train inhibition, "because inhibition was previously considered untrainable," explains the scientist with a slight hint of pride in her voice.