A video game designed to boost empathy in children may lead to greater connectivity in brain networks related to prosocial behavior. A study, published in the journal npj Science of Learning shows that, in just two weeks –
middle schoolers who played such a video game showed greater connectivity in brain networks related to empathy and perspective.
Some of the children showed altered neural networks commonly linked to emotional regulation. It is a crucial skill that this age group is beginning to develop.
Tammi Kral, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin Madison in the US stated –
“The realization that these skills are actually trainable with video games is important because they are predictors of emotional well-being and health throughout life and can be practiced anytime – with or without video games.”
The study explains that empathy is the first step in a sequence that can lead to pro-social behavior such as helping others in need.
Richard Davidson, Professor at the Varsity mentioned –
“Our long-term aspiration for this work is that video games may be harnessed for good.
If the gaming industry and consumers took this message to heart, they could potentially create video games that change the brain in ways that support virtuous qualities rather than destructive qualities.”
In the study,
The team randomly assigned 150 children from middle school to two groups.
One group played the experimental game called – “Crystal of Kaydor”. It was created for research purposes and intended to teach empathy.
The second group played entertaining control game called “Bastion” that does not target empathy. A team found a stronger connectivity in empathy-related brain networks after the students played “Crystal of Kaydor” compared to “Bastion”.
Moreover, “Crystals” players who showed strengthened neural connectivity in key brain networks for emotion regulation also improved their score on the empathy test than the Bastion players.