The Baltimore Sun

Video games

Playing can boost skills such as problem-solving

Parents, don't put away those video games just yet - today's gamer may be tomorrow's top surgeon.

Researchers who gathered in Boston for the American Psychological Association convention detailed a series of studies suggesting video games can be powerful learning tools - from increasing younger students' problem-solving potential to improving the suturing skills of laparoscopic surgeons.

The conclusion? Certain types of video games can have benefits beyond the virtual thrills of blowing up demons.

In one Fordham University study, 122 students in fifth, sixth and seventh grades were asked to think out loud for 20 minutes while playing a game they had never seen before. Researchers studied the children's statements to see if playing the game improved cognitive and perceptual skills.

While older children seemed more interested in just playing the game, younger children showed more interest in setting up a series of short-term goals needed to help them learn the game.

Studies by Iowa State University psychologist Douglas Gentile and Dr. James Rosser, head of minimally invasive surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, compared surgeons who play video games to those who don't.

The edge went to gamer surgeons, they found, even after taking into account differences in age, years of medical training and the number of laparoscopic surgeries performed.

The news wasn't all good.

Other studies confirmed earlier research that found students who played violent games tended to be more hostile and less forgiving and believed violence to be normal compared to those who played nonviolent games. And those who played more entertainment games did poorer in school and are at greater risk of obesity.

Associated Press


Bachelors becoming just as healthy as husbands

Single guys, rejoice. A new 30-year study from Michigan State University released Monday suggests that never-married men are quickly becoming as healthy as their married counterparts.

However, marriage is still meaningful, the authors said, as widowers reported themselves in poorer health than husbands. The gap widened every year.

MSU author Hui Liu, assistant professor of sociology, said the study shows that policy promoting marriage for health may be outdated, as other forms of long-term commitment become more common.

The study also suggests that widows and widowers need strong reinforcement and community support to keep themselves mentally and physically healthy.


Skin cancer

Controversial study links moisturizers, tumors

Moisturizers may speed skin cancer in reformed sunbathers, even years after giving up on tanning, according to a Rutgers University study of mice.

Four brands of moisturizing creams caused tumors to form faster and larger in hairless mice that had been pre-treated with ultraviolet radiation, the Rutgers researchers reported in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

"We don't know what happens in humans," said Alan Conney, who headed the study. "But this is a red light saying there should be some epidemiological study in human populations."

Manufacturers of the products - Eucerin Original Moisturizing Creme, Vanicream, Dermabase and Dermovan, all chosen randomly for the study - refuted the findings.

Conney said it is not known which ingredients act as the mechanism that could promote skin cancer. "There was no common ingredient" in the moisturizers that was suspect, he said. "It has to involve the combination of ingredients."

The chief of dermatology at Hackensack University Medical Center said that many doctors recommend moisturizers and would question the study.

"I disagree with the article," Dr. Margaret Ravits said. "I've been in practice 30 years, and we don't find any problem with using moisturizers.

More study is needed and people should not throw out their skin creams at this point, Ravits said. "There are too many open questions to extrapolate from mice to humans."


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