Video Games Develop Ambidextrous Brains
1 April 2001
The New England Journal of Medicine will report tomorrow that scientists have discovered that children who play video games a minimum of 20 minutes three times a day develop ambidextrous brains. Most of us know that video games are one of the most popular forms of entertainment, especially for children and adolescents. Few of us knew the developmental benefits children received from such activity. The political and commercial impact of this finding is expected to be far-reaching. The study was a joint venture funded by the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the United States Army.
The researchers believe that playing video games requires use of both sides of the brain simultaneously. Most young people develop a favorite side of the brain and are drawn to activities controlled by their brain-side preference. "Right-brain" and "left-brain" activity, or logical and intuitive thought, has been seen for some time as mutually exclusive. Video games offer the potential to make kids, and thus adults, academically and professionally capable of being both logical and intuitive.
The study turned much of the conventional wisdom concerning video games on its head. A group of third-grade students significantly improved their arithmetic proficiency after just one week of video game practice sessions. The poorest readers in a group of primary school children made significant reading comprehension gains on a video-game training program. The research also indicated that video games are therapeutic for children suffering from "institutionalization," a common ailment of children warehoused for long periods in elementary and secondary schools.
The scientists also found that video game playing contributes to improved eye-hand coordination and reaction time. The NBA, which in recent years has allowed high school prospects to skip college to turn pro, is asking Reebok, Nike and other sneaker companies to cross-market their high priced sneakers with video games. "Anything that can help a kid take a defender off the dribble with either hand should be made available to kids at an early age," said Commissioner Stern. Major League Baseball is hoping that accelerating video game use at an early age will create a generation of switch-hitters, the likes not seen since Mickey Mantle. The Joint Chiefs, through spokesman Major General Manley Battle, stated that "America's continued world dominance will require the armed services to lower the age for induction to take advantage of the unique ability youngsters have to master computer based war technology."
Officials in the Bush administration stated privately that the new technology could result in a movement away from public schools to home schooling and to small private schools and faith-based schools. President Bush's press secretary, Ari Fleischer, noted that the resulting savings from cuts in federal funding of public school programs would allow congress to increase the $1.6 trillion tax cut proposed by the administration. Fleischer called the findings "an affirmation that free enterprise is better at solving life's problems than big government."
President Bush praised the video game industry for "helping the United States maintain traditional American values of violence, aggression and gender stereotyping." Despite his positive comments, the president admitted concern that foreign companies dominate the video game market and stated that the United States needed to guard against "the brains of American boys being controlled by globalism." President Bush credited his frequent use of "Etch-a-Sketch" as a young boy to helping his academic performance. The self-deprecating president, admitting that he never could turn both dials on the "Etch-a-Sketch" at the same time, told the press corps that they would never have to worry about his being logical and intuitive at the same time.
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