Thursday, August 21, 2008

Psychologists find video games 'not all bad'

PLAYING video games improves manual dexterity among surgeons, making them faster and less likely to make mistakes, researchers have found. The findings were contained in a raft of research about how video games effect the people who play them, discussed at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in Boston.

"The big picture is that there are several dimensions in which games have effects," including their content, how they are played, and how much, said psychologist Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University. "This means that games are not 'good' or 'bad' but are powerful educational tools and have many effects we might not have expected they could."

Dr. Gentile presented several studies on video games including one involving 33 surgeons specializing in laparoscopy, the use of a thin lighted tube to inspect and treat various conditions in the pelvic and abdominal cavities. Laparoscopic surgeons who played video games were 27 per cent faster at advanced surgical procedures, and made 37 per cent fewer errors, compared to their non-gaming colleagues, the study found.

Studies involving high school and college students confirmed previous findings about the social effects of playing violent video games, the Iowa State researchers said. Students who played violent games were more hostile, less forgiving, and more apt to view violence as normal, than peers who played non-violent games. But students who played "prosocial" games got into fewer fights at school and were more helpful to other students, the researchers reported.

Yet another study at Fordham University measured the effect of learning a new video game on problem-solving skills in middle-school-age children and found that "playing video games can improve cognitive and perceptual skills." "Certain types of video games can have beneficial effects improving gamers' dexterity as well as their ability to problem-solve - attributes that have proven useful not only to students but to surgeons," the researchers found.


Fortifying bread with folic acid is 'no protection from heart disease'

Taking vitamin B or folic acid supplements does not prevent death in patients with heart disease, a study has shown. The research is the latest to demonstrate that money spent on vitamins is often wasted. But it also suggests that fortifying bread with folic acid - a measure under consideration in Britain to prevent birth defects - would not have the additional advantage of protecting the nation's hearts.

Earlier work suggested that folic acid, either alone or combined with vitamins B12 and B6, reduced levels in the blood of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to a higher risk of heart attack. Proponents of vitamin supplements argued that lowering homocysteine levels through supplements would also reduce heart attacks. But the new study seems to disprove that.

While homocysteine levels did fall by 30 per cent after a year of treatment with folic acid and B12, there was no corresponding fall in heart attacks or strokes. In the group given folic acid, there was a decline in strokes, but an increase in cancer, though neither was significant.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, involved more than 3,000 patients in two Norwegian hospitals between 1999 and 2006. Patients were given folic acid plus vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, or folic acid plus B12, B6 alone, or a placebo. "Our findings do not support the use of B vitamins as secondary prevention in patients with coronary artery disease," the team concluded.

Since folic acid fortification of flour began in the US and Canada ten years ago, deaths from stroke have fallen faster than in England and Wales, where fortification has been discussed endlessly but never implemented.


Alexander Technique effective for back pain

An alternative therapy used to improve posture and to help women to cope with labour pain can be more effective at treating backache than conventional treatments, a study suggests. Combining exercise with practising the Alexander Technique could significantly reduce back pain and improve mobility, researchers found.

The technique was developed by the actor Frederick Alexander (1869-1955) to help his vocal and breathing problems. It is designed to change the way people move their bodies, with an emphasis on balance, posture and co-ordination. A team from the universities of Bristol and Southampton compared the effectiveness of massage, exercise and the Alexander Technique in 579 patients with back pain. Those who had received 24 lessons in the Alexander Technique reported 18 fewer days of back pain over four weeks compared with those who had been taking exercise alone, according to the study published online by the British Medical Journal today.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I will mention that the Alexander Technique is a form of truly scientific yoga. As Jim Morrison said: "The West is the Best." It speaks about clavicles and trapezoid muscles, and is a part of every great actor or singer's early training. No New Age (fossile hippie) chakras or "energy center" crap. Interactive too, unlike Yoga, which is the popular equivalent for non-professionals. It's basically a part of turning the human body back into both an animal (in movement) and a musical instrument (think of a female opera singer as a true analogy of a resonant cello). It's utterly anti-intuitive. One would think that voice lessons would involve learning to control musculature. No. It's all about letting it go and letting the BACK MUSCLES OF THE SPINE support your entire body as they were designed to do, so that literally down to your toes, your whole body resonates with the sound you make, and you learn to LOSE your conscious control of your breathing while performing. And against modern fashion, it's most about no longer holding your belly in (to look fit), nor, especially, slouching in chairs and supporting yourself (on the net just like copybook school days in a desk) by your arms or FRONT muscles. Those muscles must be allowed to vibrate with one's voice. The UNCONSCIOUS control of the diaphragm is taught (obviously indirectly in most devious fashion that actually improved one of my eyes by a full diopter while making the other one worse by half that) along with FULL letting *go* of control of everything in your body from diaphragm to lips. That's it. Everything in between is mere elastic. They even teach a form of Martial Art, which I used to stop a Spanish Harlem kid from mugging me of a $6K diamond ring: pointing your voice at a person. Little farker ran away, box cutter included.