Is the effect on the brain of playing video games positive or negative? We examine the scientific evidence.
Video Game Effects on the Brain: Video game sales continue to rise year after year. In 2016, the video game industry sold more than 24,500 million games (in 2015 it was 23,200 million). Among them, the genres of action and adventure take the highest percentages of sales, with games like Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto or Battlefield.
Video Game Effects on the Brain
And is that video games represent a very popular form of entertainment among all audiences. Millions of people have fun with video games every day, with the average player being an adult over 30 years of age. For the youngest, parents believe that video games have a positive influence on the lives of their children. Is it like that?
Is There a Consensus in the Scientific Community?
A team of scientists from the Open University of Catalonia (Spain) and the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston (USA), has carried out a systematic analysis of 116 different scientific studies regarding the influence of video games on our behavior and our brain and collected by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience magazine.
The results of the studies indicate that playing video games not only changes the functioning of our brain, but also its structure since changes occur in many regions of the brain.
Video Games Improve Attention
The studies included in the review show that players show improvements in various types of care, including sustained and selective attention. In addition, regions of the brain that play a key role in attention are more efficient in people playing video games compared to non-players and require less activation to stay focused on demanding tasks.
Video Games Improve Memory
Scientific evidence also shows that playing video games increases the size and performance of parts of the brain responsible for visuospatial abilities – the ability to represent, analyze and manipulate objects mentally. Specifically, the right hippocampus.
Video Game Addiction
On the negative side, video games can generate addiction. In addicts to the game, there are functional and structural alterations in the system of neuronal rewards-structures associated with pleasure, learning, and motivation. But, as the authors of the study say, “these effects do not always translate into changes in real life.”
“It is likely that video games have positive aspects (inattention, visual and motor) and negatives(risk of addiction ), and it is essential that we accept this complexity,” Palaus continues.
Video Games in 3D
Another study published in the journal Nature and developed by scientists at the University of California at San Francisco (USA) found that the use of the 3-D video game designed specifically for the study improved cognitive performance in older adults and reversed some of the adverse effects in the brain associated with aging.
“This finding is a powerful example of brain plasticity – it’s encouraging that even a little brain training can reverse some of the brain declines that occur with age,” explains Adam Gazzaley, leader of the work.
In summary, the effect of video games on the brain is a new field of research that needs to be further explored. It is likely that we are still scratching the surface of its potential as a tool to improve cognitive ability and the prevention of cognitive disorders.
Reference: Neural Basis of Video Gaming: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00248 2017
Training the older brain in 3-D: Video game enhances cognitive control. University of California San Francisco. 2013
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