Love playing video games? It might make your brain more efficient
Video gaming is not just a popular pastime. An analysis of previous studies shows that it can actually make your brain more efficient.fitness Updated: Jun 28, 2017 07:46 IST
Carried out by researchers from the Cognitive NeuroLab, Faculty of Health Sciences, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, and the Laboratory for Neuropsychiatry and Neuromodulation, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA, the team looked at 116 scientific studies to see if any trends arose from recent research on how video games affect brain structure and behaviour. Previous studies have shown that it improves skills required for higher education and it can even be used to treat depression.
“Games have sometimes been praised or demonized, often without real data backing up those claims. Moreover, gaming is a popular activity, so everyone seems to have strong opinions on the topic,” says Marc Palaus, first author on the review. From their analysis, which included looking at 22 studies on the structural changes in the brain and 100 on changes in brain functionality and/or behaviour, the team found that playing video games can change both how our brains perform and its structure.
Some of the studies suggested that playing videos games can improve several types of attention, including sustained attention or selective attention, with the brain regions involved in attention appearing to be more efficient in gamers and requiring less activation. The studies also showed evidence that video games can increase the size and efficiency of brain regions related to visuospatial skills, with the team finding that the right hippocampus was enlarged in both long-term gamers and volunteers following a video game training program.
However the team also found that playing video games can be addictive in the form of “Internet gaming disorder,” with gaming addicts showing functional and structural changes in the brain’s neural reward system which are nearly the same as those seen in people with other addictive disorders.
Commenting on the implications of these changes, Palaus said, “We focused on how the brain reacts to video game exposure, but these effects do not always translate to real-life changes.” “It’s likely that video games have both positive (on attention, visual and motor skills) and negative aspects (risk of addiction), and it is essential we embrace this complexity,” he explained.
The rise of smartphones and tablets means video games are more accessible than ever, with gamers often using these devices to play throughout the day as well as on desktop computers and consoles at home. The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
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