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Video Games Might Be Good for the Brain

In his speech to America’s schoolchildren last month, President Obama had a clear directive about video games: Put them away. But the latest science shows that there’s a lot more to video games than their dark reputations suggest, according to the Boston Globe.

Photograph by Quinn Norton Photograph by Quinn Norton

Scientists are increasingly examining the potential benefits of video games. Their studies are revealing that a wide variety of games can boost mental function, improving everything from vision to memory. Still unclear is whether these gains are long-lasting and can be applied to non-game tasks. But video games, it seems, might actually be good for the brain.

The very structure of video games makes them ideal tools for brain training.

“Video games are hard,’’ said Eric Klopfer, the director of MIT’s Education Arcade, which studies and develops educational video games. “People don’t like to play easy games, and games have figured out a way to encourage players to persist at solving challenging problems.’’

The games aren’t just hard – they’re adaptively hard. They tend to challenge people right at the edge of their abilities; as players get better and score more points, they move up to more demanding levels of play. This adaptive challenge is “stunningly powerful’’ for learning, said John Gabrieli, a neuroscientist at MIT.

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