Monday, July 2, 2012

Another Plus for Computers

Among those things that can be done with computers and the Internet, our right wing friends are vociferously against playing computer games.  They consider them as time wasters, as brain and thought dulling--well you take your pick.  In this our right wingers are in good company, as many others have complained about what they see as the ills of playing computer games.  Certainly a primary complaint has been that those who play these games tend to get "addicted" to them and can spend hours and hours a day playing them.  Many blame this game playing as a cause of the obesity epidemic in the US and elsewhere.

However, in the past few years dozens of studies have been run--and dozens more are now being run--that show the benefits of computer game playing for both children and adults at all stages.

What the studies have shown is that regular computer game players have better thinking abilities and perception than those who do not play.  The studies show that hand/eye coordination not only improves in those who play games, but that the "elderly" or older adults who play these games retain their hand/eye coordination, unlike a majority of older adults who lose that coordination as they grow older.  One study was quite fascinating.  It followed adults with cataracts that were interfering with their vision.  To date the only solution for these cataracts when they reach vision blocking stages is surgery.  The researchers found that a steady dose of computer game playing that required rapid eye movement 5 days a week pretty much "fixed" the cataract problem in 80% of the participants. 

Regular computer game playing has a beneficial effect on memory.  Those older adults who play regularly are seen to have less memory loss problems than those who do not play.

And no, it does not only have to be those action games that get some parents in a tizzie.  Any game that requires strategy, size/shape/color recognition, information retrieval and memorization and, obviously, hand and eye coordination will work.

Scientists are excited about the results of these studies and are jumping in to do more and broader studies of the benefits of computer game playing.  Anything that can keep us agile, both mentally and physically, without expensive and painful medical intervention is a plus for me.

If Klal continues to be divided over the benefits of computers and the Internet, we're going to be a perfect study population for scientists in the future.  One group in Klal does use the Internet and it does play computer games.  Another group does not play computer games.  Down the road, when today's youngsters and middle agers reach the border of "old age," we will see which of the two populations has less trouble with vision and with memory as they age.  We will see which population retains its physical adeptness and adroitness. Sigh, of course we would first have to convince our "righties" that science is not black magic and that scientific studies do have validity.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Written by a true academic - and spot on too!!
Anon613-London

Ruth said...

At my last eye exam my doctor actually recommended playing certain types of computer games. But like any other health product, too little won't help completely or at all, the right amount will be beneficial, and too much, an overdose, can bring along other types of health problems. To get the benefits you need to have balance.

The Professor said...

FoldIt (an online game) actually helped medicine by solving the structure of an enzyme involved in reproduction of HIV. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=foldit-gamers-solve-riddle