I REMEMBER CAUTIONING MY SON TY ABOUT VIDEO GAMES. Not good for your teenage brain, I opined. Today, Ty makes money playing video games and is a computer programmer at Google. Could I have been wrong about video games (here, I mean in moderation)? Is there a cheat code to improve your brain?
I recently thought about the relationship between video game programming and brain activity. A new study suggests that playing video games is associated with improvements in brain activity and decision-making skills.
We begin with the observation that “historical neuroimaging studies suggest there may be beneficial effects of video game playing on attention, visuospatial, and memory abilities.”
Video games and brain function
A new study of college students provides some insights. For the brain imaging study, researchers recruited 47 subjects. All completed a questionnaire about video game playing for the past two years.
Researchers considered participants who played five or more hours weekly as video game players. Non-video game players engaged in gaming for less than one hour each week.
During functional imaging (MRI), the subjects performed a left-right moving dots task. They pressed a button in their right or left hand to indicate which direction the dots moved — or resist pressing either butting if no directional movement occurred.
The video gamers appeared faster by 190 milliseconds and more accurate by two percent with their responses compared with the non-video gamer group members.
On imaging, these differences appeared associated with changes in particular brain areas (including the thalamus, lingual gyrus, and supplementary motor area).
The researchers concluded that playing video games “potentially enhances several of the subprocesses for sensation, perception and mapping to action to improve decision-making skills.”
My take — Video games and the brain
I am not surprised that video gamers have better cognitive skills in some domains. Still, this study does not represent a randomized controlled experiment. In addition, whether the improvements in cognitive skills are relevant to real-world tasks is uncertain.
How much is video gaming time needed to improve select cognitive skills? And what are the downsides of video gaming besides addiction? The Georgia (USA) researchers are trying to answer these questions.
The researchers offer no conflicts of interest. Georgia State University provided funding.
Thank you for joining me in this look at a cheat code to improve your brain.