5/2: Neuroplasticity

Please post a question. And if you haven’t done so already, please send me your representation of consciousness (written or drawn) or your most vivid memory. Send it as an email to: dleopard59@gmail.com (as indicated on the syllabus).

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13 comments

  1. I thought it was interesting that there were benefits to playing action video games. I only hear about negative side effects to spending 10 hours or more playing video games and didn’t think there could be benefits cognitively. It never occurred to me it could help you with life skills such as driving in the fog, being specially aware, holding conversations, etc. You wouldn’t expect playing action video games 10 hours or more could even help surgeons perform quicker and making correct decisions on pressure. Did anyone else think of this as shocking or did you believe video games had huge benefits like this article talked about?

  2. The last chapter of UBIK begins with the following passage:

    “I am Ubik. Before the Universe was, I am. I made the suns. I made the worlds. I created the lives and the places they inhabit; I move them here, I put them there. They go as I say, They do as I tell them. I am the word and my name is never spoken, the name which no one knows. I am called Ubik, but that is not my name. I am. I shall always be.”

    This metaphysical explanation of Ubik resembles that of the Christian God. Is Ubik the God of this story? What message do you think Dick is trying to send in this regard?

    At the very end of the book, Runciter sees Chip’s face on his 50 C pieces, ending the book with another distorted version of reality. What does the message send about perception and how might it relate to neuroplasticity?

  3. In the research project, “The Brain-Boosting Power of Video Games” done by Daphne Bavelier and C. Shawn Green, they studied the relationship between video games and the improvement of mental processes. In this study, they provided a psychological test before and after to see if the results improved. Half the group played action games and the other half played non action games. Results indicated that action games improved cognitive flexibility and emphasize attention while non action games did not enhance cognitive processes. How can we use this study to explain the phenomena of cognitive science? What is the overall relationship between video games and cognitive science? Additionally, how does this study further explain the theory of phantasy?

  4. After reading what Shawn and Daphne said about video games and how it affects our brains it made me think of a science project my 13 year old cousin just did. He tested to see how watching a certain genre of movie before taking a test will affect your final results of a test. He came to the conclusion that the genre did have an affect. One who watched a violent movie or in this case played a violent video game, made that person being tested work faster and be more accurate. I think video games have the same affect when it comes to brain function. I do however think that too much time in front of a screen will have an overall negative affect on our personal being though. We need to not spend as much time as we do in front of screen.

  5. As someone who plays video games frequently, it was refreshing to see a study on the positive effects on video games. The only problem I see in this study is myself. I’m not sure as to how I would score on the reflex test. I played a lot more action adventure games and nothing that had to do with combos or aiming at soldiers running across my field of vision. I would love to have a group of my peers participate in the study, and see a personal application.

  6. In the novel UBIK, we slowly learn that the main characters are actually dead and their consciousness is kept active. This is following an explosion by their company’s rival. If everyone was killed in the lunar explosion why are they all put into half-life by the rival company? Is it to cover up the accident?

  7. I agree that the article by Bavelier and Green titled, “The Brain-Boosting Power of Video Games” was a refreshing take on the impact that video games can have on players. I think the media and maybe even some of our parents have drilled in the negative stereotypes about gaming and so those are the impressions many of us had prior to reading this article. One part that particularly stood out to me was the section on the improvement of cognitive function and how this may even translate into the workplace. It said, ” Game playing seems to confer the ability to make correct decisions under pressure—the type of skill sought by employers
    in many professions. One study revealed that laparoscopic surgeons who were also game players were able to complete surgeries more quickly while retaining the necessary precision in the operating room. Game-playing surgeons appeared to work more efficiently, not just faster” (3). I thought this part of the article was the most surprising because it talked about how these games can even help improve our professional lives. The usual stereotype is that gamers are lazy and ineffective, but this article actually shows the opposite. Gamers are not only faster at their work, but effective.

  8. The article by Bavelier & Green was intriguing, as I would not describe myself as a video game person, and it was eye-opening to absorb some of the research findings surrounding the therapeutic benefits of gaming. In the piece, the authors state, “Although action games provide a foundation for developing therapeutic games, a number of weaknesses must be addressed… Many individuals with attention deficits show little improvement from playing run-of-the-mill action games, despite the fact that these games enhance attention in healthy individuals.” (p. 31). I have a close relative who is self-admittedly addicted to video games (binge-gaming), mostly with Action, Real-Time Strategy, & Pro-Social genres. This person experiences daily challenges with Attention Deficit Disorder, and is often distracted and/or unfocused until they have they are able to binge-play video games. What approach would the authors suggest, from a therapeutic standpoint, this person should take in terms of their gaming to experience some of the benefits of video games, such as “—to enhance attention and diminish distraction.” (p. 30) outside of the virtual context (when he is not in front of the screen)?

  9. As a lifelong gamer and defender of the gamer identity, I really enjoyed seeing what the Bavelier and Green article had to say. During the 90’s I remember fringe fundamentalist protestant groups claim gaming/nerd culture was satanic and then I remember feminists declaring that games made people sexist school shooter types. Each era had whatever political establishment was in power at that time hold gamers as the most problematic scapegoat section of people in that society.
    So naturally, I love seeing people play the role of apologists for gaming in elaborating on its helpful psychological effects. I am reminded of an anecdote where a young man had recently lost his father to cancer. This young man and his father had played this one racing video game together many times. One day as this guy was playing this old game, he saw a car speeding up on him, realizing it was an in-game representation of his father’s high score in that racetrack. Naturally he played that race track countless times until he finally beat his late father’s record. This was a sort of electronic ghost of an imprint left by a human in a cybernetic simulation, like the gaming equivalent of a living will video. I found the whole experience fascinating from a comm theory perspective.

  10. The article discussed how video game players gain:

    “Improved ability to focus on visual details, useful for reading fine print in a legal document
    or on a prescription bottle. They also display heightened sensitivity to visual contrast, important when driving in thick fog. Action gamers also mentally rotate objects more accurately—and so are able to judge how an oddly shaped couch might best fit in an overpacked moving van.”

    Although these are positive effects from playing video games, there are certainly negative effects such as aggression or fostering an addiction toward playing video games. Based on the article and on other research articles on the effects video games have on the individual and society, do the positives outweigh the negatives that an individual experiences from video games? In other words, are video games more harmful than beneficial toward both society and the individual? Why or why not?

  11. I agree with Abegail’s comment about video games gaining such a negative connotation. Growing up I remember my grandparents telling me that if I played too many video games I would go blind and lose brain cells. Of course, as a little kid I believed them. After reading the article by Bavelier and Green I found it interesting that video games can actually enhance the brain. Bavelier and Green say, “Brain scans provide more evidence of the benefits of action games. Widely dispersed regions of the cerebral cortex regulating attention change their activity more in action-game players than in nonaction gamers” (29). I can see how this can happen. Video game players are constantly exercising their brains by thinking about the next step or how to beat the game. Their reaction times increase and the ability to think quickly and critically strengthens. With this, is it true that those who play video games have an advantage over those who do not? Can video games be detrimental to the brain and its development/functions?

  12. It could be argued that Ubik is the equivalent of God in this story. How does does the difference between Christians and the Christian God compare to Ubik and the psychic people in the future?
    Why do you think that Phillip K. Dick is attempting to depict with Ubik and why did he include it?

  13. When reading Bavelier and Green’s study, what caught my attention the most is that this discovery that action video games could be used to help people with disabilities or brain damage. They stated, “Even though action video games were never designed as
    teaching tools, they nonetheless embody many pivotal learning
    principles” (p. 30). It made me think of Greg in “The Last Hippie” and if we could have used this kind of technology to help him “rewire” his brain or what was left of it. The only issue that would take so much time to put this into effect is that it would have to be very tailored to his brain and every particular patient that uses this technology. This issue is mentioned in the study but I feel like if this way of treating brain trauma this way was given a lot of attention, it could truly help. Is it possible for this to become reality or is it too much to accomplish?

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