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Level Up: Your Brain on Video Games with Heather Berlin

Quakeboy, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
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About This Episode

Do video games really turn your mind to mush? On this episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Chuck Nice explore video games and eSports’ effects on the brain with neuroscientist Dr. Heather Berlin at PocketLab’s Science Is Cool Virtual Unconference. 

Does playing video games change the chemistry of the brain? We break down the pleasure reward system in the brain and how gaming could end up being like cocaine for the brain. Learn about social facilitation and other effects that multiplayer gaming can have on our brain chemistry. Can you get PTSD from Halo? What does immersing yourself in virtual high stress scenarios do to your mental health? Can we tell the difference between a game and reality? Also find out how VR is being used to help veterans with ptsd. Does gaming help with hand-eye-coordination? Is socializing through gaming missing out on fundamental parts of human socialization?

What goes on inside the mind of a gamer? Can you get addicted to gaming? Discover aspects of addiction that may present themselves in gamers. Do video games really promote violence? Do we have the proper capacity to separate between what is real and what is play? We discuss gun violence and whether solutions lie in our approach to violent video games. Is there a way of using eSports to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in our society? What’s it like being a female gamer? Should eSports be in the olympics? 

Next we open up to audience questions: How does your sense of smell affect learning? Does the reward system in games undermine learning resilience? Does it give a false sense of encouragement compared to real life? Do games create apathy in players? What about real life consequences? If there is always an option to play a game, does the lack of boredom stifle creatively? All that neuroscience, plus, find out more about Chuck’s new invention “Smell-o-vision” on another episode of StarTalk!

Thanks to our Patrons Jeff Simon, Chazz Gencarelli, Anthony Mannetti, Mike Ness, Stephan Greenway, Jeffrey Burley, Nola Curtis, Joe Stoeckle, Peter Jacobs, and ellen porter for supporting us this week.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.


In This Episode

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