News ID: 196736
Published: 0449 GMT July 16, 2017

Children who struggle to focus in class should be given 'prescription video games'

Children who struggle to focus in class should be given 'prescription video games'

Children who struggle to concentrate in the classroom should be given a ‘personalized prescription’ of video games to boost their performance, a leading neuroscientist has claimed.

Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, said that concentrated doses of gaming can improve memory and multi-tasking and should be used by schools to assist children with attention-deficit disorders, The Telegraph wrote.

He added that ‘first person shooter’ games, such as Call of Duty, have been shown to have a ‘benefit on high cognitive abilities’ including focusing for long periods and multi-tasking.

His calls come on the back of years of research, including a study coauthored by Dr. Gazzaley in 2016, which found that children enrolled onto a training program comprised of 25 online cognitive exercises exhibited significant improvements in focus.


However, his claims are likely to divide opinion in the education sector, amid growing concern that excessive exposure to the Internet and television could be contributing to children being diagnosed with attention deficit–hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Speaking at an education technology summit in Salt Lake City, he said: “Now some of you might be thinking, and this is just a popular notion of video games, that they’re just another manifestation of human mania — the enduring human quality of just going after something relentlessly, after pointless goals.

“But even consumer level video games...the most controversial due to their high levels of violent content, the first person shooters, have been shown to have a benefit on high cognitive abilities — attention, working memory, task-switching — in the young people that play them.

“Whether you take them and compare them to people who don’t play them, or compare them to naive young people and have them play these games, you see the effects.”


Gazzaley, whose 2008 video game, NeuroRacer, may soon be used to treat types of  brain such as Alzheimer's in the US, added that certain games can improve the ‘brain’s plasticity’ — its ability to repair and improve under certain conditions.

“If these [games] could be used to improve the functions of the brain, both as an alternative approach to education as well as a clinical approach to medicine, we could really make a big difference,” he continued.

“What you should be getting is a personalized prescription, whether it be educationally or medically, which is specifically targeted at you depending on how you are presented on day one, and which gradually develop and change with you over time.

“Using this technology we could create very powerful targeted experiences, and experiences are the gateway to the brain’s plasticity. You’re playing a game...that leads to performance metrics, which can be recorded by the game engine in real time.

“We can use this to give real time feedback and to give rewards. We could take new technology and use motion capture...psychological recordings. You could feed all this data into the game engine. We could use virtual and augmented reality to create more real world, more immersive experiences.

“What we wind up with is a truly integrated, multi-modal, close-looped system. This is the future of using technology to create these powerful targeted and adaptive tools to help improve brain function, for people who are healthy and those that are impaired.”

However, his claims are disputed by other academics, who believe that children suffering from ADHD and similar disorders are more vulnerable to becoming addicted to video games and other forms of entertainment technology.

Among them are Dr. Philip A Chan and Professor Terry Rabinowitz, whose analysis of video games concluded that adolescents who spend lengthy periods using the Internet or playing games are more likely to suffer from reduced attention spans.

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