Study Finds Playing Video Games Improves Brain Activity and Improves This Essential Skill

Video games sometimes get bad press. Politicians like to link them to real-world violence, despite studies suggest otherwise, and you heard growing up that too many games would rot your brain. Is this really the case? A new study claims that playing video games has the exact opposite effect, leading to increased activity in certain regions of the brain. We can hear the collective cheers of children everywhere (Again).

Researchers at Georgia State University set out to research the effects video game has on the brain. In a study published at ScienceDirect, they state in the abstract that games provide “a cognitively rich and engaging sensory environment that may result in cognitive benefits in those who play frequently”. What they don’t know exactly is how playing games achieves these cognitive benefits, just what they’re supposed to do.

“In a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment, we examined the behavioral and brain responses of video game players (VGP) and non-video game players (NVGP) during decision-making tasks. In the behavioral response, VGPs were overall about 190 ms faster and 2% more accurate than NVGP,” the researchers state in their paper.

“In brain response, comparing percent signal changes in commonly activated brain regions between groups, we found that video gamers exhibited increased task-related signal changes in the right lingual gyrus, the motor area supplementary right (SMA) and left thalamus associated with improved behavioral response,” the journal adds.

The researchers examined 47 participants, including 28 considered video game players and 19 who did not meet the criteria. Those who fall into the VGP group are those who reported playing video games for at least five hours per week in the past two years. Only certain game genres were considered, including first-person shooters, real-time strategy, multiplayer online battle arena, and battle royale.

Using a series of fMRI tests, the study authors concluded that people who play games are more accurate and faster at making decisions than those who don’t. They also found that the VGP group had increased activity in brain regions for visuomotor processing and increased direct network activities to the SMA and thalamus and brain.

“These findings indicate that video gaming potentially enhances several of the sensation, perception, and action-matching subprocesses to improve decision-making skills. These findings begin to shed light on how video gaming alters the brain to improve task performance and potential implications for increasing task-specific activity,” the authors wrote.

You can consult the study for the full report.

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Carolyn M. Daniel