#MrBree: Instructing the basics of #neuroscience through video #games

 

 

{Posted as #rgmooc week 8 co-op}

Our brain is admittedly a highly sophisticated organOne of its core functions is the human ability to store chunks of information – roughly up to 7 “items” at a time – storing them either in our short term memory or better yet our long term one. A successful input of information is not an automated process; we have rather trained ourselves, using various helpful strategies in order to achieve what we sometimes take for granted: preserving memories. But why is it that we forget in the first place?

Scientifically, experts indicate either neurological or psychogenic (Dubuc: 2005) types of amnesia. Suffering a severe head injury might lead to irrepairable brain damage, thus rendering crucial parts of the brain – such as the hippocampus – disfunctional or entirely useless. On the other hand, there seems to be the case of Mr. Bree. Suffering a psychological trauma, such as intense fear, stress or perhaps a life threatening experience might escalate to a broad memory loss, despite the fact that there is “no detectable brain injury or brain malfunction.” (Dubuc: 2005) In this way, people seem to lose what is called their “episodic memory“. (Dubuc: 2005)

Mr. Bree (2012) is found in the forest, illustrated as a cute, anthropomorphic pig, sweating in agony, for he cannot seem to recall who he is or why he is there in the first place. Throughout the game levels, Mr. Bree is talking to himself constantly (personal, human-like countermeasure to his predicament); his thoughts depict his inner struggle to connect all the dots as to why this is happening to him. The first fifteen levels of this platformer game are appropriately called “bad memories“. Managing to finish one level adheres to a certain brain part being restored, through clever player feedback. Levels 16 to 20 are the notorious “Butcher” levels, designed in a scarlet pallette to match the gore. Game mechanics do allow for spots within the level, where one can go back to should one fail, without having to go through the level all over again. Similarly, humans combatting forgetfulness form points of reference that are familiar with, to facilitate the sense of comfort and awareness.

In his effort to understand what is going on, Mr Bree embarks on a fictitious journey through the forest where violent spikes and flying sharp metal objects threaten his existence. It should be noted that game difficulty progresses gradually. Everytime the player completes a level, Mr. Bree learns a new move or is reminded of something pertaining to his personal life. In either case, Mr. Bree’s monologue attempts to resurface what happened and eloquently draws comparisons between his past life and contemporary state, violence being the key link here.

In accordance to psychological treatment of amnesia, the patient is indeed forced to invoke the painful memories that lead to his / her current state of mind. The secret, however, is to attach those hurtful memoirs to realtively unrelated symbols in order to ease and soothe one’s psyche. Recent research suggests that being under psychological pressure anew actually enables the brain to behave in this way. Based on conducted experiments by Fenton and colleagues, Rachel Jones (2010) observed that:

“…stress can reactivate unrelated memories that are stored outside the hippocampus and render them labile through a mechanism that requires the hippocampus […] in humans, traumatic stress might reactivate non-traumatic memories and link them to the traumatic memory, thereby facilitating the pathological effects seen in post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions.”

Therefore, one must gradually submerge into the subconscious, if one is to discover the initial source of blockage; hence the psychoanalysis retrieves information from a person’s past similarly to levelling this particular video game. Indeed, it turns out, that Mr. “Pig” was actually about to fall victim in the hands of a merciless butcher when he miraculously managed to escape in the forest. Treading the forest pathways, Mr. Bree reenacts his way to the slaughterhouse one step at the time, putting together the missing pieces of the puzzle.

Mr. Bree could be considered as a substitute for any nameless victim of psychogenic amnesia. Stressing over obstacles is a homeopathetic way of acummulating information on his individual, agonizing past and coming to terms with stress related amnesia. If so, one can honestly hope that progressively even the worst state of degenerative dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease will eventually become itself a bad memory in the not so distant future.

Works cited:

Dubuc, Bruno. “Types of Amnesia.” The Brain from Top to Bottom. N.p., n.d. 2005. Web. 19 July 2013. <http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/i/i_07/i_07_p/i_07_p_oub/i_07_p_oub.html&gt;.

Jones R (2010) Stress Brings Memories to the Fore. PLoS Biol 8(12): e1001007. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001007

Mr. Bree – Returning Home. Online PC game. Kongregate. Vers. 1.0.35. Taw Studio, 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 18 July 2013. <http://www.kongregate.com/games/TawStudio/mr-bree-returning-home&gt;.

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