Published: Tue, August 08, 2017
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

Why Action Video Games Can Harm A Certain Part Of Your Brain

Why Action Video Games Can Harm A Certain Part Of Your Brain

Instead they follow the game's built-in Global Positioning System, using a different part of the brain to find the way on "autopilot".

"We saw less grey matter in the hippocampus of habitual players". "We then followed that up with two longitudinal studies to establish causality, and we found that it was indeed the gaming that led to changes in the brain".

The latest study's lead author Dr Greg West, of the University of Montreal, said: 'Video games have been shown to benefit certain cognitive systems in the brain, mainly related to visual attention and short-term memory.

The more depleted the hippocampus becomes, the more a person is at risk of developing brain illnesses and diseases including depression, schizophrenia, PTSD and Alzheimer's disease. The problem is, the more they use the caudate nucleus, the less they use the hippocampus, and as a result the hippocampus loses cells and atrophies, the new study shows.

Professor Andrew Przybylski, from Oxford University, pointed out that the research lacked statistical power though and does not confirm 90 hours of playing such games leads to harm. "But there is also behavioral evidence that there might be a cost to that, in terms of the impact on the hippocampus".

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It turns out that there's a turf war raging between two parts of your brain: the hippocampus on one side of the battle and something called the caudate nucleus on the other. It was found that habitual action video game players had significantly less grey matter in their hippocampus and used response strategies at a higher rate.

The researchers found that playing such games from the 3D Super Mario series was beneficial as they require use of the hippocampus. After playing the games for a total of 90 hours, the gamers who played the first-person shooters showed a strong bias toward response learning on the maze test. Those video games that emphasized spatial memory strategies were actually associated with an increase in gray matter in the hippocampus. Rather, the scientists learned that those video games where no spatial memory strategy is required are responsible for the effect. Playing action video games has the potential to inhibit activity in the hippocampus, but only in response learners.

In their current state, first-person shooters easily allow players "to navigate with a response-route-following strategy without relying on the relationships between landmarks, fundamental to the spatial strategy".

He suggests that in-game Global Positioning System and way finding routes overlaid on the display of many games prod players in the right direction, without them having to employ spatial strategies such as remembering the relationship between different landmarks.

So if you want to play it safe, it's better to stick with "Super Mario".

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