From the Archives: Some Brain Science for #VideoGamesDay

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People are hungry for data about video games and the brain. One of our most popular stories, still consistently in the Top 10, is a longreads Cerebrum essay from back in 2009, “Video Games Affect the Brain—for Better and Worse.” Writer Douglas Gentile, Ph.D., concludes:

With the exception of educational games, most video games’ effects on brain and behavior are unintentional on the part of both the designers and the players. Nonetheless, research suggests that the effects are real. Video games are neither good nor bad. Rather, they are a powerful form of entertainment that does what good entertainment is supposed to do—it influences us.

In 2012, we followed up with a news story on research targeting more specific areas of cognition that might be affected by playing video games:

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Back to School Materials for Teachers and Students

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Image: Shutterstock

With summer coming to a close, now it’s time for fall and a new school year to begin. To help ease the transition, why not stop by the Dana Foundation’s website and look over some fun, yet educational, activities and materials? The site has two separate sections designed specifically for educators and students, depending on what you’re looking for.

The Kids page is grouped into elementary, middle, and high school sections and offers students of different age groups a chance to explore games, quizzes, and online exhibits of most things covering the brain and human body. In the “Lab,” students can explore different types of brain maps and atlases to learn all the parts and differences between healthy and diseased brains. Digital dissections to discover how different parts of the body work, and a chance to have all of your questions about the brain answered by real neuroscientists, are also available!

For teachers, we offer resources from both Dana and outside organizations that cover various lesson plans, science news, and the history of neuroscience and human behavior. In this section, you can also find our Brain Awareness Week (BAW) Lesson Plans, designed for grades K-5. These classroom exercises incorporate fun activities using Play-Doh to create make believe brains, experiments to learn about our sense of smell, and a PowerPoint presentation to teach students about common brain injuries and how to stay safe.

In addition to these two sections, fact sheets, puzzles, coloring sheets, and more can be found on the BAW section of our site.

All of the materials on these pages are free and have been vetted by scientific advisors. We are constantly updating these pages and encourage you to check back every now and then to find more ways to bring science and fun into the classroom!

National Book Lovers Day

CerebrumPool

Enjoy your copy of Cerebrum poolside. Available for purchase on Amazon.

Maybe it’s from years of school-encouraged summer reading lists, but this season always ignites a desire in me to read more books and to ask friends for recommendations. And it just so happens that August celebrates National Book Lovers Day–today! For fellow book lovers, and particularly those who want to learn more about the brain, I can point to some Dana Foundation resources that offer suggestions.

Cerebrum, our monthly online journal of timely ideas in neuroscience, has an accompanying podcast and a yearly printed anthology, but did you know it also publishes quarterly book reviews? Recently reviewed books include Howard I. Kushner’s On the Other Hand: Left Hand, Right Brain, Mental Disorder, and History, Matthieu Ricard and‎ Wolf Singer’s Beyond the Self: Conversations between Buddhism and Neuroscience, and Alan Alda’s If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating. All reviews are written by neuroscientists with an understanding of the chosen topic.

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Living with Parkinson’s

Alan Alda at Columbia cropped

Best known for M*A*S*H*, Alan Alda has also appeared in 48 films, on Broadway, and written two books. Photo credit: Eileen Barroso, Columbia University

It was hard to miss Alan Alda’s announcement this week on CBS This Morning that the legendary actor had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease more than three years ago. Alda, 82, said one of the reasons he was speaking out was to offer a message of hope to people who are living with the disease: “In the very beginning, to be immobilized by fear and think the worst thing has happened to you – it hasn’t happened to you. You still have things you can do. I’m taking boxing lessons three times a week. I do singles tennis a couple of times a week. I march to Sousa music because marching to music is good for Parkinson’s.”

Through the years, our Dana Foundation publications have often focused on both Parkinson’s disease and Alda’s passion to better communicate science to the public, which is part of our mission as well.

In 2015, about the same time that Alda learned he had Parkinson’s, I wrote “Alda Crushes It,” a blog on Alda’s lecture at Columbia University, entitled “Getting Behind a Blind Date with Science.” In this captivating lecture, co-sponsored by Dana and the Kavli Foundation, he talked about why he had co-founded his own center for science communication at Stony Brook University and how he had been inspired by his time as host of Scientific American Frontiers, a PBS program that explored any number of topics. He was engaging, insightful, and his enthusiasm was contagious.

A year later the publication I edit, Cerebrum, reviewed Alda’s new book If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face. We asked Eric Chudler, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington and the executive director of the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering in Seattle, to tell us what he thought. Chudler wrote: “With humor and a clear, concise, and never stilted writing style, Alda takes readers on his journey to help experts convey neuroscience and other complex scientific topics to a variety of audiences.”

Last year Cerebrum published “Gut Feelings on Parkinson’s and Depression,”  an article by Ted Dinan and John Cryan, researchers at the University of Cork in Ireland,  that focused on microbiota’s emerging role in trying to solve the puzzle that could lead to treatment. We also published “A Smell Test for Parkinson’s,” an article about the growing role of olfactory in diagnosing the disease.

Alda told CBS that one of the reasons he decided to reveal that he was living with Parkinson’s was that he had been on television a lot in the last few weeks talking about Clear + Vivid, his new podcast. He noticed watching himself that his thumb was twitching and felt that “it’s probably only a matter of time before somebody does a story about this from a sad point of view, but that’s not where I am.”

All of us at the Dana Foundation are rooting hard for Alda—and know that he will continue to serve as a role model to others with Parkinson’s or any other potentially debilitating neurological disorder.

— Bill Glovin

Closed Captioning and Transcripts Now Available for Videos and Podcasts!

At the Dana Foundation, we strive to make credible and current information about the brain available to as many people as possible. As part of that effort, we have recently taken steps to make our materials accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The majority of our YouTube videos are now closed captioned, including our Neuroscience and Society Series, public talks organized by AAAS and the Dana Foundation covering exciting topics in brain science such as architecture and the brain, truth and lying, and meditation. Our Cerebrum podcasts, which feature our Cerebrum editor in conversation with neuroscientists on topics such as the challenge of overcoming glioblastoma, how the human neocortex sets us apart, and Ketamine’s potential to effectively treat depression, now have accompanying transcripts.

Looking for one of our closed caption videos to start with? Check out our brand new Successful Aging and Your Brain On Demand video below to learn about how the brain works, brain diseases and disorders, and tips for leading a brain healthy lifestyle!

– Ali Chunovic

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