A Video Game May Boost Kids’ Empathy, Can Change Brain

A video game may boost kids’ empathy, can change brain. Researchers have developed a video game in which a space-exploring robot crashes on a distant planet, to find out whether video games can improve empathy in middle schoolers and how it can modify neural connections in the brain.

Developed by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the positive results of the new game were published this week in npj Science of Learning.  It found that video game designed to train empathy showed greater link in kids’ brain networks associated with empathy and perspective taking. Some kids who played this game also showed altered neural networks commonly related to emotion regulation, according to the study authors.

Empathy is the initial step in a sequence that can create prosocial behavior like helping others, sharing, donating, co-operating, or volunteering, said Richard Davidson, director of the center and a professor of psychology and psychiatry at UW-Madison.

For the study, the researchers randomly divided 150 middle schoolers into two groups. The first group was tasked to play a game called Crystals of Kaydor – created for research and meant to link with empathy, while the second group was asked to play Bastion, which is a commercially available and entertaining control game.

After the study, researchers found that the middle schoolers who played Crystals of Kaydor showed stronger connectivity in empathy-related brain networks compared to those played Bastion.

“The fact that not all children showed changes in the brain and corresponding improvements in empathic accuracy underscores the well-known adage that one size does not fit all,” explains Davidson. “One of the key challenges for future research is to determine which children benefit most from this type of training and why.”


Marry Saunders

Marry Saunders is a seasoned journalist with nearly a decade under her belt. While studying journalism at the University of Wisconsin, Marry found a passion for finding local stories.  As a contributor to Roswell Gazette, Marry mostly covers human interest stories.

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