Video Games Are Rotting Your Brain, According To Poorly Run Scientific Study


I’ve spent a lot of time on here ripping into poorly done studies that insist stupid things, usually to make hyperbolic proclamations, push out shameless pro-state propaganda, or display utter ignorance of how relationships work. Most of them are run by hacks who try to game the peer-review system. And now we’ve got another one to throw onto the pile.

The basis of the paper’s claims is this: By playing video games, you’re learning “response” strategies, like memorizing a series of turns. This would mean, at least in theory, that gamers have a larger and more active striatum, associated with reward/response cues, and a smaller hippocampus. In turn, this would make heavy gamers more prone to diseases that affect the hippocampus, like Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

This is not nearly as idiotic as some studies we’ve come across, but it’s still pretty bad. First of all, the sample size was tiny: Just 52 people, half-gamers and half non-gamers. Second, the study did not take what one would think would be the rather crucial step of actually looking at the brains of the subjects. You know, actually proving the hypothesis! The way you’re supposed to when you follow that silly, silly scientific method!

Third, depending on who you ask, this could be counteracted by playing more logic and puzzle games. It could also have nothing to do with your gaming habits at all, since brains are anything but standardized. Finally, claims it might be tied to schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s are a bit much considering we still don’t know what causes these mental illnesses. “Schizophrenia” as we call it might actually be a big-ass bundle of diseases we haven’t been able to suss out yet, and Alzheimer’s has a strong genetic component with any other causes being, at best, poorly understood. It wasn’t so long ago that we believed that your deodorant was giving you Alzheimer’s, that’s how little we still know.

In other words, the casual links are unclear, the sample size is small, the illnesses it mentions are poorly understood, and the study itself didn’t bother to take a rather important and obvious step. Congratulations to this research team, they’ve won “Dumb Video Game Study” Bingo! Their prize is our contempt! And it’s not returnable!

(Via Discover,  Royal Society Publishing, Chicagoland Methodist Senior Services and Wiley Online Library)