Friday, April 13, 2012

Gaming and Neuroscience: Opportunities and Challenges | SharpBrains

Found a really nice article about a conference of gamers and neuroscientists over at Sharp Brains.  I am particularly interested in this because I did some video game programming in a previous life.  What I find particularly fascinating is the idea that the stimulation of the vagus nerve can allow for more or less brain plasticity (the ability for the brain to change itself) and that this stimulation can occur with the use of a computer.  

As my Gentle Readers know, I have been doing a lot of computer based therapy.  Some of it is interesting and some is a bit tedious (staring at fuzzy patches for 40 minutes).  It would be interesting to know how this affects training.   Also, nobody is looking at the emotional piece to this puzzle, especially in regards to "Flow" -- getting into the optimal state for peak performance.  I think if someone could link brain plasticity with computer games and "flow", you might really have something.

A cou­ple weeks ago I attended the Enter­tain­ment Soft­ware and Cog­ni­tive Neu­rother­a­peu­tics Con­fer­ence, ESCoNS, at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia San Fran­cisco. The speak­ers’ talks were insight­ful, sur­pris­ing, and inspir­ing in many regards. The pur­pose of this meet­ing was to bring together great minds in a vari­ety of fields from neu­ro­science to game design and to come up with some ideas how to make game based cog­ni­tive train­ing a real­ity as an effec­tive ther­apy for many of today’s most chal­leng­ing dis­or­ders and deficits. Many of the sci­en­tists also thought that game based ther­a­pies for cog­ni­tive deficits could be used as enhance­ment tools for healthy indi­vid­u­als as well.

I found the pre­sen­ta­tions to be inspir­ing not only because of what the sci­en­tists have learned about neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, but also because they revealed the gap­ing holes that remain in our under­stand­ings of these neural sys­tems. For exam­ple, we know that stim­u­la­tion of the vagus nerve can effec­tively work as a lever, allow­ing more or less plas­tic­ity depend­ing on how much it is stim­u­lated, but at the same time we under­stand very lit­tle when it comes to the specifics of cre­at­ing effec­tive train­ing mod­ules or the changes in the brain that occur as a result of training.