UKE: Video games increase brain volume – Hamburg – Neighborhood News

Hamburg. The city through which the patients of Professor Jürgen Gallinat cycle could not be more beautiful. Well maintained trails lead to fountains and small shops, hairdressers, bakers, shoe stores. They all want to be supplied – by a postman who uses a small map to roam the streets of the virtual small town.

A normal video game? Not really. The "Postbotenspiel" was developed in cooperation between the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf and the Hamburg start-up RetroBrain R & D, a spin-off of the Cluster of Excellence of the Humboldt University. It is part of one of the city Hamburg by capitalization studywhich deals with the impact of digital media on the human brain occupied.

The subjects are on average 72 years old and suffer from a precursor to Alzheimer's dementia. Every day, they spend 30 minutes in front of the game console or the Kindle. If the study meets the expectations of its initiators, it would be nothing less than a scientific sensation. Not only would it be clear that the daily use of digital media improves the brain performance of sick patients. But also that it could delay the occurrence of a disease against which there is no therapeutic agent.

Digital Guide

It's an amazing study, in every way. Video games have become a leading digital media in recent years – 37 million people play regularly in Germany and this number is increasing. This is the age group of the over 50s, which is currently experiencing the fastest growth. And yet, social perception is still dominated by clichés. The game divides the generations. According to parents, video games make children stupid, lonely and aggressive. Children oppose the fact that gaming and electronic sports in Norway are already a school subject – because deliberately, the dose simply makes it smart. Only the therapeutic benefit is almost never.

This should change soon in Hamburg. Eight years ago, professors Jürgen Gallinat and Simone Kühn began to address the topic of "the use of digital media", initially casually. Researchers in the Department of Psychiatry actually wanted to know how adolescents develop an addiction to substances such as alcohol or cannabis. By the way, they asked questions about gambling habits. "We wanted to know how many hours they spend, sometimes their extent is huge," says Gallinat. "But until now, no one has cared what it does to the brain."

Players have special cognitive abilities

Magnetic resonance therapy (MRI) has provided information – an imaging technique used in medical diagnoses to visualize tissues and bodily organs. "What we discovered was that those who played a lot had more volume in a certain area of ​​the brain than younger people who played less." Another study provides scientific evidence: it was excessive gambling, which in adolescents led to an increase in the volume of the brain. had driven.

In the world of professional gamers, it's no longer a secret that these people have special cognitive abilities. His eye-hand coordination is impressive, his responsiveness all the more. Up to eight decisions are made by one "pro" per second. In comparison, eSportler even outperformed the best pilots in the US Air Force. Real-time, four-dimensional failures call on experts to have their brains cope with competition under the pressure of time.

Amazing results

For Jürgen Gallinat and his team, the opportunity to reflect on a new direction. "So we knew that playing video games steadily increased brain volume and that Alzheimer's dementia caused brain volume deficits." Could you possibly counter this process by forming video games and using the media? Everyday digital? "To find out, the researchers first wanted to make sure that older and healthy patients could get the brain volume – not just teenagers.

Once again, there were volunteers. Again, the results were staggering: all seniors gained brain mass after weeks of console training with a game developed in just a few weeks. "Apart from scientific knowledge, it is simply a very good news," says Jürgen Gallinat: "Even the elderly can still increase the volume of their brains." But can they do it even if they are already suffering from a precursor to Alzheimer's dementia? The evaluation will show it next year.

At the Holy Spirit Hospital, a facility for elderly people in Poppenbüttel has been interested for years in the therapeutic effect of video games. There are now ten consoles where residents can paddle together. What started in 2017 with one test and two consoles has become an established project. Every day, residents of the house meet to bow or play table tennis. Pure virtual, of course. "Memore Box" is the name of the console that makes this possible.

Interest of health insurance companies

The movements of the hands and the body control the user of events on the flat screen in front of him. For bowling, for example, just stretch your arm – if you are precise, you can clear the nine. It has been five years since Manouchehr Shamsrizi, a Hamburg businessman, founded the start-up Retro Brain, which for 33 years has been working with his team to create video games for elderly people with dementia or just want to avoid to fall.

In addition to the Heiligen Geist Hospital, UKE, Charité de Berlin and Humboldt-Universität are among their partners. Health insurance companies are also interested in the therapeutic and preventive benefits of video games. At the end of August, the next project, supported by the Barmer pilot project, began at the Holy Spirit Hospital: "Digital Prevention in Inpatient (Partial) Care Facilities in the United States. medium of computer-based therapeutic training programs "is the somewhat voluminous title. Retro Brain also provides the consoles for this project. It will take twelve months.