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Child Neuropsychology A blog by Dr Jonathan Reed
  • 10 Computer Games that are good for your brain

    Children and adults learn and develop through play.  I am a great believer that playing computer games as well as being fun can be good for your brain.  I have therefore created a list of 10 great games that I think require very specific areas of neuropsychological function to play.  Some even have research to show that they can change brain and neuropsychological function. These games are for a range of different ages and come in different formats.  Let me know of others that could be included in the list.

    1 Portal 2 (PC/Mac) Probably one of my favourite games.  Portal 2 requires good executive function (associated with frontal areas of brain).  In particular you need to be able to problems solve and plan ahead in this game.  Also it is a beautifully designed game, showing what computer games can achieve in terms of entertainment.

    2 Call of Duty 4 (X box)- An exciting fast paced game that requires good speed of processing and visual attention.   There are a number of academic papers such as this one by Bjorn Hubert-Wallender, C. Shawn Green and Daphne Bavelier Stretching the limits of visual attention: the case of action video games that show games like these can actually improve visual attention and speed of processing.  It seems that this only applies to really fast paced games such as Call of Duty. (note Call of Duty is for age 16 and above).

    3. Tetris (ipad) A classic arcade style game that keeps you focused.  There is research by Haier et al from University of California to suggest that playing this game results in increased cortical thickness. There is also research by Emily Holmes from the University of Oxford to suggest that playing Tetris can help with symptoms of PTSD.

    4 Drop 7 (iphone).  To play this game you have to drop different balls with numerals inside into rows or columns and try and ensure that the numerals and the number of balls match i.e. every time you line five balls up the ones with the numeral 5 in them disappears.  This reinforces the neuropsychological concept of Numerosities, which is the ability to automatically recognise the number in a set.   Difficulties with this concept seem to be the underlying disability in dyscalculia ( specific deficit in maths).

    5 New Super Mario Brothers (Wii) The Wii version allows two people to play together and work in collaboration to progress through levels and therefore involves social co operation.  This would be an ideal game to play with a child with Autistic Spectrum Disorder ASD.  Playing alongside side children with ASD on a shared task  can be better than trying to directly interact with them. It is also fun to play with children and adults of all ages.

    6. Where’s Wally (ipad).  This game requires a very specific form of attention called selective attention.  This is the ability to spot a stimulus within an array of other information. This game may be helpful for children with attention difficulties.  The ipad version is particularly good with changing goals and rewards.

    7. Ball frenzy (ipad)  A good simple but addictive game requiring good visual motor co-ordination.  Similar to marbles.

    8 Bookworm (iphone).  A game requiring word finding and spelling.  This isn’t specifically designed as an educational game and is by Popcap who are great at designing addictive casual games.  It is fast moving and you are motivated by completion and reward rather than focusing on the educational side.

    9. Connect Four (ipad).  Another simple game  but requiring good executive function.  You need to resist the impulse to act immediately and plan your response.  I and colleagues have long believed that playing this game with children is a better assessment of executive function than many formal tests.

    10 Nutty Numbers (ipad)  I have including the game I have developed to help with numeracy for young children because there is research to show that it is effective in children’s development of numeracy.

    Published on June 6, 2011 · Filed under: Uncategorized;

4 Responses to “10 Computer Games that are good for your brain”

  1. Spore is also a good one. Your child can create creatures. In Spore Galactic Adventures, they can create whole worlds.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion Jonathan- will check this out.

  3. Simon says from the app store is free and good for attention/working memory. You can get UNO online and free which is also helpful.

  4. I think Minecraft is very good too. The danger is it can be very addictive so you have to set clear limits as to time spent playing. There is problem solving, planning ahead, creativity and socialising with other players. My son, 13 years old, took it to the next level and created his own server. He programs mods, creates worlds and mini-games and is even learning management skills due to having to hire and manage a team of volunteer administrators. It’s funny because he runs into the same problems as I do with my co-workers and comes to me for advice!

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