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May 19

What Do Video Games Do to the ADHD Brain?


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Part II: What Do Video Games Do to the ADHD Brain?

The bad seems to outweigh the good
Not all video games are created equal. The most popular games, according to Forbes magazine, are first person shooter games and role playing games such as Batman Arkham Knight, Battlefield Hardline, and Bloodborne. The primary goal is to kill one’s enemies with a variety of sophisticated high-tech guns and save the world.
Other video games create environments with good story lines, puzzle solving, and empire building. Cognitive games or games that teach mental tasks are also available. However, studies performed on these games show they have very little to no impact on ADHD either positive or negative.
Play Attention uses a body-based attention controlled feedback system inspired by NASA where players can actually move game characters by mind (attention) alone. This system has been tested by medical schools in randomized, controlled studies and has proven to have lasting positive effects for ADHD students.Boy playing video games making faces isolated in white
A new study says that playing video games can create a vicious cycle for ADHD children. In the past, most research has focused on biological and genetic factors. Very little has been done to determine how much the child’s environment affects their outcomes. However, Douglas A. Gentile, PhD, of Iowa State University and lead author of the study published in the American Psychological Association’s journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture shows that environment, especially video games, can have a significant impact on children with issues like impulse control and ADHD.
Gentile’s team tracked the behavior and gaming habits of more than 3,000 Singaporean school children, aged 8 to 17, over three years. The children were administered various self-reporting tests to diagnose ADHD and impulse-control issues. The reports also required the children to track how often they played video games and the video games’ degrees of violence. The study, Gentile said, was part of a much larger study on the positive and negative effects of video games.
As has been found in past research (Christakis 2004; Landhuis 2007, etc.) the researchers found that video games both help and hurt with attention issues.
Video game play seems to increase short-term visual attention which is the ability to rapidly process information from your surroundings. For example, if you’re playing an aerial combat game, it’s necessary to quickly process and assess the number of opposing combatants so that you don’t get shot down. While this skill is necessary for this task, it is of little value in the ordinary classroom or workplace.
The negative impact is far greater than the benefits. Gentile thinks it can make it harder for some children to complete goal-oriented tasks that require long-term concentration. According to his research, the excitement and excessive stimulation of playing a video game far exceeds any ordinary daily stimulation making the real world less interesting.
Gentile also notes that time spent playing video games may also detract from the time a child might spend developing their impulse control. “Electronic media use can impair attention necessary for concentration even as it enhances the ability to notice and process visual information.”
So, the bottom line for ADHD brains: Gentile’s research and prior research have found that children who spent more time playing video games were more impulsive and had more attention problems. Even more importantly, he discovered that children who have those issues also tended to play more video games producing a vicious cycle.
Part III coming soon: How to Manage Video Game Use
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