What happens in the mind stays in the mind? New evidence on video games and violence

A study by a team around Dr Gregor Szycik from the Hannover Medical School in Germany analyzed possible long term effects of playing violent video games regarding the desensitization hypothesis (mainly based on observes short time effects).

The money quote of the paper is: “We interpret our results as evidence against the desensitization hypothesis and suggest that the impact of violent media on emotional processing may be rather acute and short-lived.”

The original paper: Gregor R. Szycik, Bahram Mohammadi, Thomas F. Münte and Bert T. te Wildt: Lack of Evidence That Neural Empathic Responses Are Blunted in Excessive Users of Violent Video Games: An fMRI Study

And an article on the topic: iflscience: Study Finds No Long-Term Effects Of Violent Video Games On Empathy


Image: By Nick Stirling - "IF 12: Cultivate"

Neurosciencing a microprocessor

Now this is a topic that is rather fascinating to me: The scientists Eric Jonas and Konrad Paul Kording are applying the methods of neuroscience to a simulated microprocessor (a MOS-6502-Chip similar to the one used in the Commodore C64) in order to describe the observed behavior. Is it possible to get an idea of functionality? Apperantly, in 2002 there was a former study "Can a biologist fix a radio" (by Juri Lazebnik) with a very similar topic.

Here we will examine three different “behaviors”, that is, three different games: Donkey Kong (1981), Space Invaders (1978), and Pitfall (1981). Obviously these “behaviors” are qualitatively different from those of animals and may seem more complicated. However, even the simple behaviors that are studied in neuroscience still involve a plethora of components, typically including the allocation of attention, cognitive processing, and multiple modalities of inputs and outputs. As such, the breadth of ongoing computation in the processor may actually be simpler than those in the brain.

As it turns out in both cases: No, the methods of neuroscience/biology are not sufficient to understand or describe the behavior of the respective system. Does this mean anything? Yes and no. They are not designed to understand technology. Vice versa, an expert in reverse engineering probably would not understand a specified lifeform by the application of his methods aswell. But on the other hand the study reveals that we do not know for sure if the methods and the results they generate are useful for the purpose of understanding e.g. the brain. Do we have language centers in the brain or is this comparable to the misconception of space invaders centers in the micro processor?

Eric Jonas, Konrad Paul Kording: Could a Neuroscientist Understand a Microprocessor?

Golem: Könnten Hirnforscher einen C64 verstehen?


Image: Image of the circuit board of a Commodore 64 showing some important MOS Technology circuits: the 6510 CPU (long chip, lower left) and the 6581 SID (right). The production week/year (WWYY) of each chip is given below its name. Found on Wikipedia by Jef-Infojef

Join an online game, meet interesting people - and kill them

DayZ is an online PC game set in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. Surviving the undead hordes is difficult, but at least the zombies are predictable. The bigger threat comes from your fellow players, who are just as likely to help you as kill you.

Wired: Why Online Games Make Players Act Like Psychopaths

Anakin Skywalker was a borderliner

Sounds like they have found a perfect example:

The tragic hero of the "Star Wars" prequels displays patterns of instability and impulsivity in the second and third films that make him an obvious candidate for borderline personality disorder (BPD), according to French psychiatrists and psychologists.

Live Science: The Psychology of Darth Vader Revealed

FAZ: Wie Lektüre sich ins Hirn tätowiert

Geahnt hat man es ja immer schon: Lektüre schafft bleibende Eindrücke. Wie und wo die im Gehirn entstehen und wie lange sie anhalten, hat man jetzt in einer Studie herauszufinden versucht:

Was allerdings beim Lesen der packenden „Pompeji-Fiktion“ in den Hirnbildern wirklich hervorstach, waren die mit dem Lesen immer stärker ausgebildeten Nervennetze in den für Gefühls- und Angstwahrnehmung zuständigen somatosensorischen Zentren zu beiden Seiten der Großhirnrinde im höchstgelegenen Teil unter der Schädeldecke.

FAZ.NET - Neuronale Gravuren des Lesens: Die Roman-Verschaltung

Helfen Videospiele gegen Legasthenie?

Here, we demonstrate that only 12 hr of playing action video games—not involving any direct phonological or orthographic training—drastically improve the reading abilities of children with dyslexia.

Action Video Games Make Dyslexic Children Read Better

Ein Artikel dazu auf FAZ.NET: Computerspiele bei Legasthenie - Mehr als nur Buchstaben

Mosh Pit Motion

However, it's not exactly ethical to start a riot for the sake of science, so we're limited to simulating evacuations either with volunteers or on computers. The problem with this is that panicked humans act according to very different social rules, adding a element of uncertainty to this research. To address this concern, we used the extreme social conditions found at heavy metal concerts as a proxy to explore the emergent behaviors humans can exhibit in atypical circumstances.

Collective Motion in Mosh Pits