Playing video games in childhood improves working memory years later

By Chrissy Sexton

Playing video games as a child leads to long-lasting cognitive benefits, according to new research from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). The study suggests that gaming improves working memory and concentration.

Previous studies have shown that gaming improves attention, enhances visual-spatial skills, and causes structural changes in the brain – even increasing the size of some regions. The current study is the first to show that video games promote positive cognitive changes that can take place years after people stop playing them.

“People who were avid gamers before adolescence, despite no longer playing, performed better with the working memory tasks, which require mentally holding and manipulating information to get a result,” said study lead author Dr. Marc Palaus.

The research was focused on 27 people between the ages of 18 and 40 with and without any kind of video gaming experience.

The experts analyzed cognitive skills, including working memory, at three points during the study period: before training the volunteers to play Nintendo’s Super Mario 64, at the end of the training, and fifteen days later.

The findings revealed that participants who had not played video games in childhood did not benefit from improvements in processing and inhibiting irrelevant stimuli. As expected, these individuals were initially slower than those who had played games as children.

“People who played regularly as children performed better from the outset in processing 3D objects, although these differences were mitigated after the period of training in video gaming, when both groups showed similar levels,” said Dr. Palaus.

The experts also performed 10 sessions of a non-invasive brain stimulation known as transcranial magnetic stimulation on the individuals.

“It uses magnetic waves which, when applied to the surface of the skull, are able to produce electrical currents in underlying neural populations and modify their activity,” explained Palaus.

The researchers theorized that combining video gaming with this type of stimulation could improve cognitive performance, but that was not the case.

“We aimed to achieve lasting changes. Under normal circumstances, the effects of this stimulation can last from milliseconds to tens of minutes. We wanted to achieve improved performance of certain brain functions that lasted longer than this.”

The game used in the study had a 3D platform, but there are many types of video games that can influence cognitive functions. According to Dr. Palaus, what most video games have in common is that they involve elements that make people want to continue playing, and that they gradually get harder and present a constant challenge.

“These two things are enough to make it an attractive and motivating activity, which, in turn, requires constant and intense use of our brain’s resources,” said Dr. Palaus. “Video games are a perfect recipe for strengthening our cognitive skills, almost without our noticing.”

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Playing video games in childhood improves working memory years later

German police catch suspect after he can’t resist going outside to play Pokemon Go

German police say they’ve arrested an 18-year-old man who was wanted for evading a prison sentence after he ventured out to play the newly launched “Pokemon Go” smartphone game with friends.

Police in Trier, on Germany’s western border, said the group’s “peculiar behavior” as they played the game in the city on Friday prompted officers to check their papers.

The 18-year-old initially gave a false identity but police quickly established that there was an arrest warrant out for him. He was detained and is now serving a six-month prison sentence he had previously avoided serving — police wouldn’t specify for what.

http://bigstory.ap.org/15e655e1560d4f3d9d1a450d9cc61687

Holocaust Museum to visitors: Please stop catching Pokemon here

By Andrea Peterson

Almost everywhere you turn, it seems like people have their eyes glued to smartphone screens playing Pokemon Go. Since its launch last week, the app has quickly become a cultural phenomenon that has fans of all ages hunting around their neighborhoods for collectible digital creatures that appear on players’ screens almost like magic as they explore real-world locations.

But there’s at least one place that would really like to keep Pokemon out: the Holocaust Museum.

The Museum itself, along with many other landmarks, is a “PokeStop” within the game — a place where players can get free in-game items. In fact, there are actually three different PokeStops associated with various parts of the museum.

“Playing the game is not appropriate in the museum, which is a memorial to the victims of Nazism,” Andrew Hollinger, the museum’s communications director, told The Post in an interview. “We are trying to find out if we can get the museum excluded from the game.”

The Holocaust Museum’s plight highlights how apps that layer a digital world on top of the real one, or so-called augmented reality games, can come with unforeseen consequences and raises questions about how much control the physical owner of a space can exert as those two worlds intersect.

One image circulating online appears to show a player encountering an unsettling digital critter inside the museum: a poison gas-type Pokemon called Koffing floating by a sign for the museum’s Helena Rubinstein Auditorium. Clearly, it’s an awkward if not offensive thing to find in a place dedicated to making sure the world never forgets those killed in the gas chambers at Nazi death camps.

The image, which appears to have originated from a now deleted post on the photo-sharing site imgur, might be a hoax: That particular Pokemon didn’t appear nearby when this Post reporter visited the museum Monday afternoon, although the specific Pokemon that appears in each location does vary from time to time. Hollinger said that the museum is aware of and concerned about the potential Koffing appearance.

If a player really did encounter a Koffing inside the museum, it seems unlikely that Niantic Labs— the developers behind the game — would have made it show up there on purpose. But even the specter of that particular Pokemon spawning there raises questions about what sort of controls the game has in place to stop its fantasy world from causing distress in the real world, even if that distress is unintentional.

Niantic did not immediately respond to inquiries about the alleged Koffing sighting or if there was any way to honor the Holocaust Museum’s request to stop Pokemon from popping up inside its building.

Hollinger stressed that the museum is generally pro-technology and encourages visitors to use social media to share how their experiences with the exhibits moved them. “But this game falls very much outside that,” he said. Hollinger added that it seemed disrespectful, especially in more solemn parts of the complex like the Hall of Remembrance.

On Monday afternoon, there were plenty of people inside the museum who seemed to be distracted from its haunting exhibits as they tried to “catch ’em all.” A player even used a lure module, a beacon that attracts Pokemon to a specific PokeStop, on the museum’s marker — making double-headed bird-like creatures dubbed Doduos and rodent-like Rattatas practically swarm on users’ screens.

The player behind the lure, a 30-year-old visiting from North Carolina named Dustin who declined to share his last name with The Post for privacy reasons, was excited to catch a crustacean-like Krabby while waiting in the museum’s lobby with a group of friends to pick up tickets for a scheduled tour of the exhibits.

Although the museum is uncomfortable with its Pokemon infestation, most of the players building up their digital critter collection inside the building at least didn’t seem to mean any disrespect.

“It’s not like we came here to play,” said Angie, a 37-year-old member of Dustin’s huddle who also declined to share her last name for privacy reasons, “But gotta catch ’em all.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/07/12/holocaust-museum-to-visitors-please-stop-catching-pokemon-here/?campaign_id=A100&campaign_type=Email

Pokemon Go leads teen to dead body

by Jose Pagliery

“Pokemon Go” is a wildly popular new smartphone game that has players exploring their real-life neighborhoods.

And in rural Wyoming, it led a teenager to discover a dead man’s body in a river.

Like so many others, Shayla Wiggins, 19, was eager to play this version of the blockbuster 1990s Game Boy video game.

“Since it’s virtual reality, I thought: that’s cool,” she said.

Pokemon Go uses augmented reality — tapping your phone’s camera to superimpose cute, virtual creatures in the real world. It was released on Thursday and has already been downloaded more than a million times on Android and Apple devices.

Wiggins started playing Thursday night, catching 50 virtual animals as she walked through a parking lot and a gas station.

On Friday morning, she grabbed her iPhone 6 and slipped on a pair of sandals. Then she took a short walk to explore the Big Wind River, which winds behind her home in the town of Riverton.

“I was trying to get a water Pokemon,” she explained.

The game cautions users to keep aware of their surroundings. But like most players, Wiggins stared intently at her phone as she made her way beneath the Wyoming Highway 789 Bridge.

She spotted two deer near the water — but still no Pokemon. So, she walked down to the rocky river bank. She didn’t immediately notice the man’s body lying face down in the water six feet to her left.

“I guess I was only paying attention to my phone and where I was walking,” she said.

When she finally realized she was standing near a corpse, Wiggins called the police and led them to the scene.

The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that it’s investigating the man’s death. Investigators think it’s likely the man drowned at that spot, where the water is only three feet deep.

“The death appears to be accidental in nature,” Undersheriff Ryan D. Lee said in a statement.
Police haven’t publicly identified the man.

Shawna Wiggins told CNNMoney her daughter was “pretty scared and shaken,” but is doing much better.

“I probably would have never went down there if it weren’t for this game,” Shayla Wiggins admitted.

“But in a way, I’m thankful. I feel like I helped find his body. He could have been there for days.”
Wiggins, who is working at a Dairy Queen for the summer before starting college in Arizona, said she still plans to keep playing Pokemon Go to explore her central Wyoming town.

http://money.cnn.com/2016/07/09/technology/pokemon-go-dead-body/index.html

Budweiser creates real-life Pac-Man for Superbowl Ad

The 90-second spot, called “Coin,” debuted Thursday night during “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” on NBC, which will carry the championship game on Feb. 1.

Bud Light started teasing the spot more than two weeks ago. But the buzz really ramped up when a lot of the young people hired to be in the commercial posted photos from the set all over Twitter and Instagram.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/entertainment/ent-columns-blogs/stargazing/article7981203.html#storylink=cpy