Neuroscientist Uses Video Games To Help Our Brains

Video games have been used as entertainment, education, and, sometimes, as a scapegoat for violent behavior– but, medicine, too? Doctor Adam Gazzaley, a groundbreaking neuroscientist, wants to use video games to improve your memory, attention span, and other functions.

Gazzaley is a decorated neuroscientist with experience at such prestigious institutions as Mount Sinai School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, and UC Berkely. Alongside members of LucasArts, Gazzaley creates video games to research how this specific type of stimulus (as opposed to listening to music, reading a book, etc.) affects the brain.

NeuroRacer is a simple driving game with color-coded targets for players to shoot down. Applying scientific method, Gazzaley recorded and measured brain functions for players of Neuroracer, young and old. He found improvements in memory and attention span, among other cognitive abilities.

If that weren’t enough, Gazzaley has also developed a program called GlassBrain. Using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), DTI (diffusion tensor imaging), and the Unity3D engine, GlassBrain draws up a real-time model of a player’s brain. You can see it in action in this fascinating video:

Gazzaley will continue to make his games like NeuroRacer more complex in his quest to discover the affects of interactivity and play on the human brain.

The website Lumosity makes similar claims for their product, which uses the principles of “neuroplasticity.” The term essentially means that the brain can change in response to different stimuli. Gazzaley is taking this idea one step further by creating actual video games. The initial results are promising, but Gazzaley will need additional research to come up with more conclusive data.

It’s refreshing to see video games used in a positive light like this. Perhaps Gazzaley will be just the first of many doctors to reconsider the uses and benefits of gaming.