Are Video Games Good for the Brain?

September 17, 2013
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Video games have a bad rep and are often associated with laziness, apathy, and a lack of ambition. Nevertheless, they remain highly popular among young people and- increasingly- adults. Yet what is the real consequence of playing video games? What are the consequences and, if any, the potential benefits? Could video games in fact benefit players in some way?

It would seem possible that a video game could engage minds and require thought processes of players in such a way that it would actually benefit the cognitive abilities of players. In fact, many studies have been conducted to determine whether to buy video games is harmful or beneficial to the brain, and the results have been inconclusive.

The only clear data uncovered by such studies seems to support the fact that different games affect the brain differently. Some games might in fact benefit players, depending on the characteristics of the game and what it requires of the player. Most likely, a video game in and of itself is neither good nor bad.

The idea of a video game seems to have enormous potential for developing cognitive abilities such as memory, focus, analysis, strategizing, and reflexes. Video games always require the player to complete many different mental exercises and mental tasks, and they are set up so that a player must work his or her way up, constantly pushing and developing skills until the final level can be reached.

Some studies have shown that the simple, classic Tetris game can be effective at improving brain efficiency in players. A study conducted at the University of California Irvine showed that, after playing for several months, players’ brain no longer needed to work as hard at completing the tasks required in the game, and brain scans showed that parts of the brain- located in the cortex- actually would become thicker in research participants. The regions of the brain that were noticed to get thicker are associated with the abilities of planning and integrating sensory data.

It is clear that playing a video game for a prolonged period of time makes you better at playing the video game. Yet isn’t it true that doing anything for an extended period of time can make you better at that activity. For example, if you spend time researching apartments for sale in Monaco, you will naturally learn more about the factors surrounding the concept. However, this is common sense and is already apparent in a player’s gradual progression through the different levels of the brain. What is still questionable- and more difficult to ascertain- is whether the abilities acquired through playing video games can be applied to non-game scenarios.

While the overall value of brain changes brought about by video games is still in question, there is one group of individuals in whom video games have clearly been shown to cause improvements: the elderly. A study conducted in 2008 showed clearly that senior citizens who played Rise of Nations improved greatly in terms of memory, multitasking, and reasoning. This study involved eight weeks of video game playing and showed notable improvement; however, a second study was not conducted to see whether or not the participants in the study would retain their improved abilities for a long time after the period during which they were playing.

 

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