Video Gaming and the Human Brain
My name is Catalina Cimpoeru and I have recently graduated from The University of Manchester with a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience. My degree captivated me from the beginning, taking me from interesting facts about the human brain to how we use our senses (vision, hearing, touch) and the way medicines interact with our bodies to alleviate the pain. During my third and final year of study we all had to carry out a project in order to complete our degrees. I based my project on something that I think is very popular at the moment, which is gaming, and what effect this has on people. More specifically, I was looking at the impact video games had on people’s motor and visual skills, which is basically the effect on our eyes and movement. I have also reviewed what role technology and games have in rehabilitation treatments regarding movement problems.
How did I decide on what to study?
When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to study Science in University, but there were a lot of courses involving science so I had to narrow it down to the things I enjoyed studying the most. I decided then that I wanted to study something biology related, which is part of the Faculty of Life Sciences. This helped me look at the different courses that different universities have to offer in this area. I chose a biological area specialising in the brain as I wanted something more specific to focus on.
Why precisely the brain?
The brain is the most complex and outstanding organ in the human body, weighting only 1.5 kg and having more than 86 billion neurons that connect and work with our body to produce all our emotions, the languages we speak, the tasks we carry out daily and so much more. The work that the students and, more importantly, that the researchers carry out is aimed at discovering how the human brain works. By discovering this, we find out what each of the parts of the brain are involved in, what causes different illnesses, to ultimately find a cure for them. The work researchers and their students conduct is very important in order to improve and prolong human life.
Why video games?
Around seven in ten British households are active video games players, from playing games on their smartphones to computer games and PlayStation or Nintendo Wii. Does it have an impact on people that play very often? Yes. This is what my research has looked at and what I have written in my Literature Review, which is a piece of writing you submit prior to your big final year project write-up. Research showed that active video gamers have improved dexterity, finesse and speed of their hand movements. Data was recorded using Microsoft Kinect, a technological tool that records and traces your eye and hand movements whilst playing games. This tool was initially released in 2010 as a controller for Xbox 360, so for gaming purposes. Soon enough, its powerful tracing sensors were discovered and it was introduced in science and research clinical trials. It is now used in different areas of research such as computer graphics, human-machine interaction, eye-hand coordination and rehabilitation programs for motor diseases-Parkinson’s Disease, cerebral palsy. I soon found out researchers demonstrated that using exergames (a type of video games focusing on exercising) improved the patients’ hand movements and reduced shakiness. Microsoft Kinect was also used to produce different educational games for children with autism, dyslexia, ADHD in order to enhance eye-hand coordination, focal attention and short-term memory.In my degree, especially in my final year of study, I was able to choose my own topic for my project, which combined two very important topics to me: science and technology. As we are all aware of this, technology is a big part of people’s lives, both socially and academically. Technology is fast making advances in science, with continuous advances in prosthetics 3D printing and developing a needle-free kit for diabetics by using patches instead.
What about the future?
After graduation, I have been working as an intern at the University of Manchester. During my university degree I have been a very active student ambassador, which already allowed me to have a taste of the work field. I am not working in Science or in my domain at the moment (which is fine if you aren’t!) but I plan to return to health/technology in the future. I still find it tremendously interesting and I always keep updated with the new technologies used in medicine and neuroscience. I have ‘’challenged the known and embraced the unknown’’; I wanted to try something different - which is great because my degree equipped me with a wide set of transferable skills that allows me to work in different areas!
For more information about the Life Sciences courses that The University of Manchester offers, visit: http://www.ls.manchester.ac.uk/undergraduate/courses/
For information about the research we carry out at the University of Manchester, visit: http://www.ls.manchester.ac.uk/research/
For more information about different careers path you can follow after graduating from a Life Sciences degree, visit: http://www.ls.manchester.ac.uk/undergraduate/careeropportunities/
For interesting facts about the brain, visit: http://www.oddee.com/item_98246.aspx
To find out more news about science, visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/science
To find more news about technology you can follow: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology
For medical technology news, follow: http://www.medgadget.com/