Ars on your lunch break: This is your brain on video games

Enlarge / "You know what I really enjoy? Testing subjects with video games. Or just testing in general."Valve Software

Below, youll find the second installment of the After On podcast interview with University of California, San Francisco neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley and his trailblazing work to develop the medical potential that may be latent in video games. Please check out part one if you missed it. Otherwise, press play on the embedded player or pull up the transcript—both of which are below.

Gazzaley and I open todays installment discussing techniques that mad scientists like him can use to thwack the brain (legally and safely, of course) to increase its neuroplasticity. If Gazzaley's lab-crafted games can truly increase the brains resilience against neurological horrors like dementia and autism, upping its neuroplasticity during a playing session could multiply the benefits.

We then talk about the limits of medical imaging—and the lamentable fact that this technology isnt rocketing down a Moores Law-like curve, which could improve it exponentially well in advance of the next Backstreet Boys reunion. Since Gazzaley and I recorded this conversation a year ago, Mary Lou Jepsens startup Open Water has gone public with its plans to refine neural imaging by a factor of a billion (yup, thats a "b," not a typo).

In closing, we discuss some of the newer things Gazzaley's lab is exploring. Theres some intriguing work connected to meditation and an experimental game that pushes the player to the edge on both a cognitive and cardiovascular level. Gazzaley points out that in real life, few of us (other than elite athletes) ever approach both of these brinks simultaneously.

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Click here for a transcript and click here for an MP3 direct download.

If you enjoy this installment and cant wait for part three (which goes up on Ars tomorrow), you can find the full episode in my podcast feed, where it first appeared in August of last year. A full archive of my show can be found on my site or via your favorite podcast app—just search for “After On." There, youll find deep-dive interviews with other world-class thinkers, founders, and scientists tackling subjects including synthetic biology, cryptocurrency, astrophysics, drones, genomics, neuroscience, consciousness, privacy and government hacking, and a whole lot more.

Finally, if youre curious about the latest episode in the main After On podcast feed, on Monday I posted an interview with Great Britains Astronomer Royal Martin Rees. We of course discuss some astrophysical awesomeness, like gamma ray bursts. But our main topic is the existential dangers facing humanity in the 21st century. If you find this topic interesting, you may want to check out the four-part essay I just starting posting on, called "Privatizing the Apocalypse."

This special edition of the Ars Technicast podcast can be accessed in the following places:

iTunes: (Might take several hours after publication to appear.)




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