A new computer game encourages kids to make healthy choices, and the result is brain training to recognize healthy food.
The game developed at the University of Exeter in England has children press a button when they see images of healthy food, or do nothing if they see unhealthy food. The game was used for two experiments on over 200 children ages 4 to 11 who played the game.
Children saw a happy face on healthy food and a sad face on unhealthy food. They were told to hit the space bar when they saw a happy face and do nothing when they saw a sad face. Then they played a shopping game where they were told to choose a limited number of foods in one minute.
“The sight of foods like chocolate can activate reward centers in the brain at the same time as reducing activity in self-control areas,” said Lucy Porter, lead researcher from the University of Exeter. “Our training encourages people to make a new association — when they see unhealthy food, they stop.”
Children in control groups showed no changes in food choices. Children who played the brain training game were more likely to make healthy food choices when compared to those who did not play the game or were in the control group.