Can video games benefit your brain ? Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Kenny Louie
While the physical inactivity associated with long gaming sessions can have a negative impact on general fitness, there’s no denying that video games can offer important health benefits as well.
In addition to improving reflexes, some types of games can also benefit the player by improving problem solving, spatial awareness and in the case of online gaming, even social confidence.
In a recent study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, scientists used an MRI scanner to analyze what sort of impact frequent gaming sessions have on the brain.
For the test, 43 people who typically did not play any games were asked to spend 90 hours over 10 weeks playing either action games ( such as Call of Duty ) or platformers ( such as Super Mario ).
The results indicated that those who played action games lost gray matter in the hippocampus while those who played platformers actually gained gray matter in the hippocampus.
“In the majority of action video games, there’s an onscreen GPS overlaid on the screen,” said study lead author Gregory West. “There’s also wayfinding markers overlaid over the environment, and we know from past studies that when people are encouraged to navigate using these cues, really, they’re not using their hippocampal memory system to navigate.”
“It’s kind of like your brain’s autopilot, you could think of it that way.”
Those who do play action games however should not be too concerned by the results.
“If I had to recommend a type of video game to someone, it would be a 3D platform or logic puzzle game,” said West. “The evidence is clear at this point that these games can be beneficial.”