Thursday, January 21, 2010

Video game success may be in the mind

No matter what your brain size is it's what you do with it that counts
Timothy Bates
University of Edinburgh..

US researchers found they could predict how well an amateur player might perform on a game

US researchers found they could predict how well an amateur player might perform on a game by measuring the volume of key sections of the brain.

Writing in the journal Cerebral Cortex, they suggest their findings could have wider implications for understanding the differences in learning rates.

There is broad acceptance of a link between brain size and intelligence.

However it remains a complicated picture. Within the animal kingdom some smaller brains appear superior to many larger ones: the monkey's compared with the horse, for instance, or the human and the elephant.

But there are certain parts of the brain which can be disproportionately larger, and this may explain some differences in cognitive ability - between individuals as well as species.

A multi-disciplinary team from the University of Illinois, the University of Pittsburgh and Massachusetts Institute of Technology recruited 39 adults - 10 men, 29 women - who had spent less than three hours each week playing video games in the previous two years.

Playing power

MRI scans showed participants with a larger nucleus accumbens, which is part of the brain's reward centre, outperformed others in the first few hours, perhaps due to the "sense of achievement and the emotional reward" accompanying achievement in the earliest stages of learning, the team speculated.

But those players who ultimately performed best on the game in which priorities changed had larger sections deep in the centre of the brain, known as the caudate and putamen.
This makes sense, because these areas have been linked to learning procedures and new skills, as well as adapting to changing environments. These people could do a number of things at once. Think of it like driving a car, as well as looking at the road, you're tampering with your GPS, and talking to your passengers," says Prof Arthur Kramer of the University of Illinois.

"The great thing about using a video game rather than methodical cognitive tests is that it brings us a step closer to the real world and the challenges people face."

In total, the team calculated that nearly a quarter of the difference in performance could be predicted by measuring the volume of the brain.

Cat god found in Egypt

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered a 2,000-year-old temple in Alexandria
The temple, discovered in the Kom el-Dekkah neighbourhood of the city, is believed to belong to Queen Berenike II, wife of Ptolemy III who ruled Egypt in the third century BC, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities has said.

Moon goddess

The Greek-speaking Ptolemaic dynasty ruled Egypt for almost 300 years, after the foundation of the city by Alexander the Great in 305BC until Queen Cleopatra was ousted by the Romans.

The temple is 60m (200ft) high and 15m (50ft) wide.

Archaeologists found statues of Bastet, worshipped by the Greek-speaking Egyptians as the moon goddess.

For thousands of years the Egyptian Pharaohs believed Bastet was a lion-headed goddess, a relative of the sun-god Ra and a ferocious protector.

But her influence waned as the Pharaohs declined, and the Hellenistic Egyptians resurrected her as the equivalent of the ancient Greek deity Artemis.

Other artefacts were also discovered in the dig, including pots, a Roman water cistern, and the granite statue of a senior official dating from between 205BC to 222BC.

Modern-day Alexandria was built directly on top of the ancient city, and archaeologists say ruins of whole cities, palaces and ships remain to be discovered.

The Ptolemaic kings of Egypt were descended from Ptolemy, one of Alexander the Great's most trusted generals during his conquests of Egypt, Persia and his attack on India.

After Alexander's death, Ptolemy returned to Alexandria to become king and his descendants ruled until the Roman leader Octavian - who later became Emperor Augustus - defeated Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemaic line.

Leading Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass said the temple may have been used as a quarry in later years, as there are a large number of missing blocks.