Angry Birds, shooter games have pluses

Study Hall presents the results of scientific studies as described by the researchers and their institutions. This report is from the American Psychological Association :

Playing video games, including violent shooter games, may boost children’s learning, health and social skills, according to a review of research on the positive effects of video game play to be published by the American Psychological Association.

While one widely held view maintains playing video games is intellectually lazy, such play actually may strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception, according to several studies reviewed in the article. This is particularly true for shooter video games that are often violent, the authors said. A 2013 meta-analysis found that playing shooter video games improved a player’s capacity to think about objects in three dimensions just as well as academic courses to enhance these same skills, according to the study. This enhanced thinking was not found with playing other types of video games, such as puzzles or role-playing games.

Playing video games may also help children develop problem-solving skills, the authors said. The more adolescents reported playing strategic video games, such as role-playing games, the more they improved in problem solving and school grades the following year, according to a long-term study published in 2013.

Children’s creativity was also enhanced by playing any kind of video game, but not when the children used other forms of technology, such as a computer or cellphone, other research revealed. Simple games that can be played quickly, such as Angry Birds, can improve players’ moods, promote relaxation and ward off anxiety, the study said.

Brains of babies with Alzheimer’s gene develop differently

This report is from Brown University:

The brains of infants who carry a gene associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease develop differently than those of babies who don’t have the gene.

While this discovery is neither diagnostic nor predictive of Alzheimer’s, it could be a step toward understanding how the gene variant APOE E4 confers risk much later in life.

Researchers imaged the brains of 162 healthy babies between the ages of 2 months and 25 months. All of the infants had DNA tests to see which variant of the APOE gene they carried. Sixty of them had the E4 variant that has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

Using a special MRI technique designed to study sleeping infants, they compared the brains of E4 carriers with non-carriers. They found that children who carry the APOE E4 gene tended to have increased brain growth in areas in the frontal lobe and decreased growth in areas in several areas in the middle and rear of the brain. The decreased growth was found in areas that tend to be affected in elderly patients who have Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers emphasized the findings, published in JAMA Neurology, do not mean that any of the children in the study are destined to develop Alzheimer’s or that the brain changes detected are the first clinical signs of the disease.