Video game seizures and neuroscience research

Two weeks ago the One Mind for Research initiative kicked off with a three-day neuroscience forum in Boston that featured a speech by Vice President Joe Biden. The initiative, spearheaded by former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy and California mental health philanthropist/fundraiser Garen Staglin, has an ambitious agenda:  a ten-year program involving government, academia, and industry to boost neuroscience research funding and to unify and accelerate research efforts across different fields of neurology, psychiatry, and cognitive science, to include the interplay of genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, immunology, and other disciplines. The goal is for researchers in many aspects of brain function and disease to move away from intellectual islands (“silos”) of specialized, disorder-specific expertise to a collaborative, cross-disciplinary approach that encourages sharing and cross-fertilization of ideas, and accelerates progress in understanding.

This is exactly the sort of mindset that is needed to advance our understanding of the physiological, cognitive, and behavioral effects of electronic media on the brain. It is clear that video games affect a range of brain functions and that different types of brains respond differently to them. For example, people with ADHD and autism are more likely to struggle with game addiction and may also be more vulnerable to photosensitive seizures. Learning about how environmental influences such as video games affect brain health in different segments of the population should be a high priority among scientists, but because of scarce funding and the current funding models (silo-based), researchers tend not to collaborate across different yet related fields of study.

Take a look at the project’s blueprint, Ten Year Plan for Neuroscience: from Molecules to Brain Health, at I find the concept very inspiring and enjoyed reading about the many areas of knowledge that help us understand the nervous system. There is definitely a place within the theme of Neural Circuits for exploring exactly how video games affect the brain, particularly in fragile populations with non-standard brain circuitry. Now, how to get onto the agenda…

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