With more than 1.2 billion gamers around the world and sales projected to pass $100 billion, there’s no denying that video games are now a part of every day life. Yet games are still frequently accused of causing addiction and violence.
In three decades of research, scientists have failed to produce a consensus on whether or not there’s any truth to those claims. So what affect do video games have on the human brain? A growing body of work is beginning to show that video games can have a positive affect on the human brain through the following ways.
Learning a new sensorimotor skill often requires a repetitive pattern of vision and motor movement, commonly known as hand-eye coordination.
A team of researchers from the University of Toronto conducted an experiment on two groups of people, gamers and non-gamers, and then compared the results. Both groups were asked to manually track a dot that moved in a complicated, yet repetitive pattern on a screen.
Initially, both groups were handling the task equally well, but by the end of the experiment, the gamers were performing significantly better than the non-gamers.
At the University of Geneva, Prof. Daphne Bavelier compared the visual abilities of gamers and non-gamers. She found that individuals who play action video games performed markedly better those who did not.
Her theory is that fast action games require the player constantly to switch their attention from one part of the screen to another while also staying vigilant in their environment.
This switching attention while also paying attention to the surrounding challenges the brain, making it process incoming visual information more efficiently.
At the Max-Planck Institute of Human Behaviour in Berlin, Prof. Simone Kuhn studid the brains of subjects as they played Super Mario 64 DS over a period of two months.
She found that three areas of the brain had grown; the prefrontal cortex, the right hippocampus and the cerebellum. All three parts are involved in navigation and fine motor control.
Since Super Mario 64 DS features a 3D view on the top screen and a 2D map view on the bottom screen, Prof. Kuhn believes having to navigate simultaneously in different ways may be what stimulates brain growth.
While the effectiveness of electronic “brain training” apps has been called into question, University of California’s Prof. Adam Gazzaley and a team of video game designers have created a game with a difference: Neuroracer.
Aimed at older players, the game requires individuals to steer a car while at the same time performing other tasks.
After pensioners played the game for over 12 hours, Prof. Gazzaley found they had improved their performance so much that they were beating 20 year-olds playing the game for the first time.
He also measured improvements in their working memory and attention spans. BBC2’s Horizon recruited a small group of older volunteers to test the benefits of off-the-shelf games. After playing a popular karting game for over 15 hours over five weeks, their working memory and attention spans had increased by about 30%.
The next time someone accuses you of wasting your time playing video games, please use this scientific evidence below that you are only doing it to better yourself.