Now who'd go around calling gamers brain-dead? Well, actually, I can think of one individual...
But in at least one real-world case, video games, as part of a larger program of treatment, have actually helped bring a severely damaged brain back to life, reports CNet.
The patient, 9-year-old Ethan Myers of Colorado, was involved in a terrible 2002 car accident. Doctors said he would never walk, talk or feed himself again after he awoke from a month-long coma. However, after starting game-flavoured treatment using a system snappily-named CyberLearning S.M.A.R.T. BrainGames (pictured at left), his parents report that "in the last year, we've seen the Ethan we knew before the accident."
For his part, Ethan said, "I'm doing the exact same things as [classmates]. I'm getting buddies and stuff. I couldn't remember where I put stuff and now I can. I remember school stuff and people's names."
The $584 BrainGames system utilizes "neurofeedback" technology, a form of conditioning that rewards users for producing specific brain waves, like those seen during relaxation or concentration. Based on a system designed by NASA to keep pilots calm and awake, the game modifies the controls of the game so that when the brain reacts in a particular way it becomes easier to control the action - thus rewarding the development of otherwise strained or damaged grey matter.
This isn't the only time, of course, that games have been shown to have positive effects on health - not only the cranial effects of Nintendo's Brain Training which GamePolitics reported on recently, but also in regard to diabetes management.
Nintendo, in association with Californian developer Realtime Associates and a Washington doctor named Harold Goldberg, have developed a system to help diabetics use PC's, smart phones, or, oddly enough, GameCubes to test their blood sugar levels and send them off to their doctor.
Not that Neurofeedback is without its detractors, such as New York's Dr. Andrew Adesman - "We have some very effective treatments for kids with ADHD [other than neurofeedback], I'd be concerned about parents pursuing expensive and not very established treatments in lieu of more proven therapies."
Some critics may also point out that BrainGames - unlike standard therapy, education, and drugs like Ritalin - is not covered by health insurance.
Only time will tell us who's right.
-reporting from the U.K., Mark Kelly, GP International Correspondent