Mindfulness Video Game Tenacity Causes Brain Changes That Improve Attention

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  • Specially designed video games may be beneficial for kids
  • The video game Tenacity trains mindfulness in middle schoolers
  • Researchers found that there were changes in areas of their brain associated with attention in kids who played the game

Parents may be complaining about their kids spending too much time on video games, but playing specially designed video games may be a good thing, researchers said.

Image via Pixabay

In a new study funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, researchers designed a video game to improve mindfulness in middle school kids.

They found that in young people who played the game, there were changes in areas of their brain associated with attention.

Study researcher Elena Patsenko, from the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explained that unlike other games, the game called “Tenacity” focuses on changing the cognitive or emotional processes, which affect the way people think or process information that they are trying to learn. Very interesting, right?

The video game, which was particularly designed for middle schoolers, trains mindfulness, the state of awareness of the present moment, by encouraging players to focus on their breaths.

For the study, 95 middle schoolers were assigned to be either in the Tenacity gameplay group or the Fruit Ninja control group. Fruit Ninja is an attention-demanding game that does not teach breath aspects of mindfulness.

Image via Pixabay

The participants were then asked to play their assigned game for half an hour each day for two weeks.

Based on the brain scans of the participants taken before and after the study period, researchers found that those in the Tenacity group had changes in the connectivity between their left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the left inferior parietal cortex; two areas of the brain critical for attention.

Researchers said that these changes were associated with improvement on an attention task.

“We found that brain changes following two weeks of gameplay were associated with improvement in the performance on that unrelated attentional task,” Patsenko said.