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How gaming boosts the brain

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Picture credit: https://www.lyncconf.com/

Great athleticism doesn’t just happen from the neck down and great minds don’t only rely on everything above the shoulders. There is clear and growing proof that the relationship between our minds and bodies are key for reaching our real potential.

This applies to professional gaming as well. The image of the overweight, out of breath gamer is outdated. Today’s competitive gamers have to operate at the best of their abilities, which means they must focus equally on their mental and physical wellbeing.

“I am a firm believer in the Latin phrase ‘Mens sana in corpore sano’, which translates as ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’,” says Dimitri ‘Detrony’ Hadjipaschali, a Counter-Strike pro gamer playing for esports group Bravado. “In short, this suggests that physical exercise is important for your psychological well-being. With that said, I know that getting into an active routine can be challenging, but whether or not one enjoys it – it should certainly be a part of your lifestyle!”

Bravado, sponsored by Alienware and Intel, is South Africa’s leading esports group. It emphasises players being at their physical and mental best. This has led to a collaboration with Professor Peet du Toit, who specializes in Exercise- and Neuroscience research at the University of Pretoria. His work makes it clear that the mind-body relationship is one of the most critical components for success.

“The combination of brain flexibility, brain fitness, health-related fitness and skill-related fitness is what creates top performance. Exercise plays an important role in brain health and neuroplasticity. But a healthy body also follows a balanced brain. If you focus on both, you get incredible results.”

The rise of Neuro-Agility

Prof du Toit promotes Neuro-Agility, a new innovation in neuroscience that can help develop the super learning powers people require. Neuro-Agility focuses on the six drivers that optimize brain health and performance and its impact on seven neurological components of learning, thinking and cognitive processes. These two dimensions will have an impact on performance of individuals and determine their competitive advantage.

One would think gaming doesn’t qualify. Games have a reputation for making our brains lazy and slow. But Prof du Toit disagrees with this, citing academic research that reveals the benefits of gaming:

“Strategy video games have shown promise in improving cognitive control, reasoning, and higher-order cognitive skills, and stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as long as possible. Gaming may also be a viable treatment for depression and mild cognitive impairment. However, cognitive training should come second to physical activity programs when it comes to improving cognition, brain function and structure.”

This last point is very important and why Bravado has asked Prof du Toit to use his insights to improve the performance of its esports athletes. This is accomplished through several ways which can be subdivided into different areas: brain fitness, stress coping skills, sleep, movement, mindset, hydration, body weight, resting heart rate, wellness, pain, performance, energy levels and brain foods.

Using a program designed around these factors, Bravado’s gamers have access to numerous exercises that help engage their minds and improve mental elasticity. This not only includes boosting brain flexibility and promoting positive information channels – a crucial factor for brain health – but also balancing brain waves and promoting the use of both brain hemispheres.

“Most people are homolaterally fit, which means they mostly only use one hemisphere of their brain,” Prof du Toit explained. “We are capable of being bilaterally fit using both hemispheres. There are ways to train for this, as well as to improve focus, concentration and shifting mental gears.”

The big brains of Bravado

In the cutthroat world of professional gaming, split seconds can determine victory or defeat. By using the research and products developed by Prof du Toit and his team, Bravado will gain an edge over the competition.

“Having a balanced lifestyle which includes physical and social activity alongside your gaming certainly does improve your gameplay,” said Dimitri. “Needless to say, it also improves your general health, which is always good! Being physically active aids your overall mindset and state of mind. This is especially the case if you are making a career out of esports or even playing semi-professionally. Exercise improves your personal skill, boosts your confidence as well as your ambition and drive.”

Bravado members are being assessed for their individual Neuro Agility (NAP) and Body Agility (BAP) Profiles. These are the benchmarks from which they then improve their performance, using the Limitless You Neurolink Peak Performance Program (LYNPPP). The program includes brain and body agility activities, many of which can be done in the comfort of one’s bedroom, as well as nutritional products that will, among many benefits, optimize performance, enhance cognitive ability, reduce stress, reduce inflammation, increased energy levels, give resistance to fatigue and impact productivity. Enhanced cognitive ability will result in increased receptiveness, perceptiveness, mental alertness, memory, attention, focussing and energy levels.

“NAP, BAP and LYNPPP were born and are grounded in applied neuroscience,” said Prof du Toit. “These aren’t just more instruments with an added neuroscience flavour. It is a predictive analysis that serves as a framework for professionals and individuals in talent development and performance improvement. It can identify potential, select talent, develop talent, improve engagement, promote brain health, minimize risk for human error, improve happiness and lift gaming performance.”

Any serious esports competitor will agree that you have to look after both your mind and body to be at your best. Top players don’t just game but participate in a range of activities that promote their physical health, stimulate their minds and strengthen their social connections. Such habits, combined with a good diet and focused improvement through something such as LYNPPP, are what create champions.

“If we want to be the best, we have to outlearn, outthink, outtrain and out-create our competition,” said Andreas Hadjipaschali, CEO of Bravado Gaming. “The collaboration with Prof. du Toit and LYNPPP will help create that edge for Bravado.”

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TikTok takes on COVID-19

The fastest growing social media platform in the world has also become an epicenter of public education about the coronavirus, attracting more than 30-billion views, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The young have been getting a bad rap for wanting to party on while COVID-19 sends the world into lockdown. But a different movie is playing itself out on the social platform that is growing fastest among teenagers: TikTok.

Awareness campaigns by TikTok itself, collaboration with the International Red Cross, and spontaneous videos made by TikTok creators have combined into a barrage of information, education, awareness and social consciousness around the coronavirus.

Both globally and in South Africa, TikTok’s COVID-19 campaigns have gone viral.

The local #HayiCorona challenge, designed to remind people not to touch their face and wash hands regularly, has passed 1.5-million views. The TikTok collaboration with the International Red Cross, the #WashingHands challenge, has passed 12.6-million views.

One of the best-known participants in these challenges is the past year’s icon of South African talent, the Ndlovu Youth Choir, took up the global challenge with a 20-second hand-washing video. It put together a performance that brings tremendous energy to what can be a clichéd message, and ends with a punt for the Department of Health’s WhatsApp information service. The video can be viewed below.

@ndlovuyouthchoir

Our community has limited access to running water. Follow these instructions on how to safely wash your hands using a bucket. ##coronavirus##washinghands

♬ original sound – ndlovuyouthchoir

“On a global scale, TikTok also partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that, while creators are still having fun and expressing themselves on the platform, they stay informed with COVID-19 information coming from a reliable source,” a TikTok spokesperson told us. “Through the partnership, the WHO has created an informational page on TikTok that offers information to curb the spread of the coronavirus as well as dispelling myths.”

The page can be viewed at https://vm.tiktok.com/GHTEGf

TikTok has hosted a number of livestreams with WHO experts, attracting users from more than 70 countries, tuning in for live question and answer sessions. It has also introduced labels on coronavirus-related videos, to point users to trusted information. Resources are also offered directly in the app and in a dedicated COVID-19 section of TikTok’s Safety Center, at https://www.tiktok.com/safety/resources/covid-19.

If users simply want to explore videos on the topic, they can search via the #coronavirus hashtag, or click on https://vm.tiktok.com/swKbn4. The hashtag has had an astonishing 33.8-billion views, indicating the scale of activity and interest around the topic on the platform.

Read more on the next page about how South Africans have embraced the campaign.

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On World Backup Day: backup, backup, backup

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It was World Backup Day yesterday, 31 March, at a time when business continuity is threatened as never before. That makes calls for protecting email and defending against ransomware all the more urgent.

The global coronavirus pandemic has brought into stark relief many organisations’ lack of business continuity plans and policies. With more than two billion people around the globe in forced lockdown in wide-ranging government efforts to stem the tide of infections, an unprecedented number of employees are working remotely.

This interruption to the normal way of work is precisely what an effective and resilient business continuity strategy should plan for, says Heino Gevers, cybersecurity specialist at Mimecast

“Companies need uninterrupted access to critical business applications during times of disruption, including safe and secure web and email access for workers that are now operating outside the normal perimeters of the organisation,” he says. “In addition, comprehensive backup and archiving solutions should be ready to restore access to critical business applications should there be any unplanned downtime to ensure continuity until the crisis passes.”

According to Gevers, the current global crisis is likely to push business continuity up the list of priorities for many organisations that have been disrupted by the effects of the coronavirus.

“Organisations are facing new challenges to their productivity; for example in terms of technical support. If a remote user is infected with malware or ransomware, how does the IT team restore that device or do any remediation without being able to physically access it?”

Gevers advises that organisations implement tools that enhances the data protection capabilities of commonly-used tools such as Office365 and can leverage archived data to provide quick recovery of email data in the event of accidental loss, malicious attacks or technical failure. 

“As adoption of cloud-based business applications grow in the wake of forced lockdowns around the globe, companies need to ensure they have the tools to recover in any situation,” he says. “This includes a data management strategy that combines archiving, backup and data protection capabilities to allow for quick restoration of critical systems and applications in the event of disruption.”

Jasmit Sagoo, head of technology at Veritas for the United Kingdom and Ireland, warns that this is a golden age for cybercriminals looking for ransomware opportunities.

“As the global cost of ransomware continues to grow, this World Backup Day, Veritas is saying: ‘don’t pay up, back up!’,” he says. “Ransomware is said to generate an estimated annual revenue of $1 billion a year, and companies who are not consistent in backing up their data are allowing criminals to line their pockets.

“Ransomware attacks exist only because some businesses can’t survive unless the hackers give them back their data.  So, the key to survival is removing that reliance and being able to regain access to data, without engaging with the cybercriminals.  The best way to do that is with a sound backup strategy.

“Sagoo advises organisations to create isolated, offline backup copies of their data to keep it out of reach of any attackers.  They then need to proactively monitor and restrict backup credentials, while running backups frequently to shrink the risk of potential data loss. Businesses should also test and retest their ransomware defences regularly.

“Ransomware strikes without warning and it doesn’t discriminate between its targets – it can happen to any organisation, large or small. Despite their best efforts, most companies will fall to at least one attack. What distinguishes one victim from another is the ability to bounce back, which ultimately depends on its backup strategy.

“When ransomware hits, organisations that aren’t prepared often feel helpless to do anything other than to submit to their attacker’s demands.   That’s why we’re urging all businesses to use World Backup Day as a catalyst to get ahead of the situation and get their data protected.”

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