Did you know that we are half way through Brain Awareness Week? According to Dana Alliance, the nonprofit organization of 260 leading neuroscientists (including ten Nobel laureates) behind the initiative – now in its 12th year, events are taking place in 69 countries.
It seems to have had little public relations support in the UK, but today, in Manchester (the only activity I could find), shoppers at Asda supermarket, have been learning about their little grey cells. Helping people understand how the brain works and more about diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s sounds a really good idea.
However, I also discover a piggy-back PR campaign:
“To celebrate National Brain Awareness Week, online games retailer
GAME.co.uk are going all intellectual and encouraging customers to give
their brain a thorough workout. From 12th – 18th March they will be
offering Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training for only £16.99, in addition to a
number of superb bundle offers!
Which got me thinking about whether it was appropriate to link computer games in this way – and I discovered something very interesting about Dr Kawashima, relating to my concerns yesterday about the credibility of academics.
In 2001, the Observer reported Kawashima, needing funds for his brain imaging research, decided to investigate the levels of brain activity in children playing video games hoping this would benefit game manufacturers. He compared brain activity in children playing Nintendo games with those doing the Kraepelin test (adding single-digit numbers continuously for 30 minutes).
BTW, Kraepelin discovered schizophrenia , manic-depression and jointly discovered Alzheimer’s disease with Dr. Alois Alzheimer.
Kawashima’s findings showed the Nintendo group used parts of the brain associated with vision and movement, while the other children had activity throughout the left and right hemispheres of the frontal lobe – areas of the brain associated with learning, memory, emotion, and impulse control. Back then, Kawashima said
“There is a problem we will have with a new generation of children – who play computer games – that we have never seen before. The implications are very serious for an increasingly violent society and these students will be doing more and more bad things if they are playing games and not doing other things like reading aloud or learning arithmetic.”
He appeared certain that excessive playing of computer and video games would make children more prone to act more violently as they grow up. Of course, the findings were criticised by the software industry and hey presto, in 2006, we get Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training
Designed by a prominent neuroscientist, Brain Training for Adults, a package of cerebral workouts aimed at the over-45s by the Japanese game console and software maker Nintendo, is said to improve mental agility and even slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease – said the Observer.
How interesting. Other scientists are sceptical of the games’s abilities – but clearly in the case of Nintendo and Kawashima, there has been a meeting of minds.