Today in Research: video games don't help or hurt, the "return trip" effect, an apple juice inquiry and, yes, SpongeBob redux.

  • There is no good reason to be playing video games. Unless you just find them entertaining. Believe it or not, previous studies have been mostly kind to gamers, linking gaming with better cognitive and multitasking skills for all those buttons you have to figure out and levels to conquer. But a new analysis of those studies by Florida State University researcher Walter Boot doesn't find merit to the idea that games breed intelligence. "Despite the hype, in reality, there is little solid evidence that games enhance cognition at all," he posits in the press release. [Eurekalert]
  • SpongeBob research redux: A few days ago, media outlets, including us, reported on a bit of research showing that the SpongeBob SquarePants show may, as the AP described, "cause short-term attention and learning problems" in children who watch it. The researchers, however, seem unhappy that many of the headlines oversimplified the study. They clarify to New Scientist: "Saying that SpongeBob is making you dumber is very different than saying a child's attention is temporarily impaired and that we don't know what the long-term impacts are." [New Scientist]
  • Why the bus ride back feels shorter (sometimes). MSNBC reports on a very caveat-filled, but quite interesting,  research vein that finds evidence of a "return trip" effect wherein people biking or busing feel that the ride back goes quicker. Return trips don't feel quicker, the research notes, when you're familiar with the route. Meaning: heading back from the office will always feel like an endless trek. [MSNBC.com]
  • Maybe Apple juice is scary. Maybe it isn't. TV personality Dr. Oz says yes it is, because his research says that there may be traces of arsenic in some products. The Food and Drug Administration says no, Dr. Oz is incorrect. Neither seems to be budging right now, although we'd like to think the FDA has more authority than Oz. And the FDA's head doctor Dr. Richard Besser seems pretty emphatic, the AP quoted him saying that Oz's report was "'extremely irresponsible'...like yelling Fire! in a movie theater.'" [Associated Press]
  • Criminal cases of doctors over-prescribing prescription drugs: 37  That's the total number of criminal cases from the period of 2001 to 2011, according to a new Reuters report. The figure is said to be growing, but it still seems small, especially when the stat arrives right after the report mentions, "Fatal overdoses from prescription painkillers more than tripled to 13,800 in the United States in 1999 through 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." [Reuters]