September, 29

Are brain-games digital crack?

Apparently, I signed up for the newsletter of brain-game designers Lumosity, whose various drills for dendrites leverage our natural neuroplasticity in an effort to find one?s lost marbles and change them from cat?s eyes into steelies. The fact that I don?t recall signing up for their brain-spam means I either need their services or their marketing department is run by an evil-genius.

The upshot is (according to the brain-spam cribbed from the journal Science) that ?Researchers from the Karolinski Institute in Sweden have discovered that cognitive training can increase release of dopamine,? the neurotransmitter that helps signal ?reward.? ?The brain releases dopamine to say ?good job, do that again!? in response to pleasurable experiences ? thus, dopamine is often critical to learning.? And, I suspect, it?s critical to addictions as well.

Here?s the dope on doapmine:

As researcher Imran Siddiqui wrote in ?Dopamine and Addiction,? a paper published at Bryn Mawr?s website:

?In certain areas of the brain when dopamine is released it gives one the feeling of pleasure or satisfaction. These feelings of satisfaction become desired, and the person will grow a desire for the satisfaction. To satisfy that desire the person will repeat behaviors that cause the release of dopamine… Often these behaviors can result in addiction due their effect on dopamine, and that addiction can have negative effects on a person’s well-being.?

So, basically, brain-game apps are digital crack? Yes. Is it bad for you? Not as bad as real crack. Will it make you smarter? Well, it won?t make you stupider, which is where we?re headed anyway especially if you?re on real-crack. Case in point, when I reread things I?ve written years ago, two thoughts will occur to me ? ?A) ?Oh, shit, I?m Charlie from Flowers for Algernon? and my comprehension of my own purple-prose has diminished greatly or B) ?This writing is crappy and incomprehensible, thank goodness no one said ?good job, do that again!? Otherwise, the dopamine fix might have crystallized my brain into an incomprehensible crap-writing machine… Wait a minute…

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