A 2010 paper analyzed a number of studies and showed that video game players exhibited positive changes in a number of sensory, perceptual, and concentration abilities beneficial to spatial cognition. That is, it has benefited the part of their brain that acquires knowledge about their environment and uses it to determine where they are. Research shows that there are several benefits to playing video games. These include cognitive benefits, such as improved reaction time, improved mental flexibility, and improved spatial skills, as well as other types of benefits, such as decreased stress levels, increased self-esteem, and increased prosocial behavior. Scientists at the University of Geneva who tested an action video game for children found in their research that playing the action video game improves reading skills – even if the game did not require reading activity. The skills the players improved included “vision, attention engagement, working memory and cognitive flexibility,” according to Angela Pasqualotto, first author of the study.
This is one of the puzzles presented to you in Portal, a physics-based video game that asks you to escape a rogue artificial intelligence by going through a series of rooms designed to be impassable without the portable portal device in your possession. The game encourages you to “think with portals” to solve each piece and move around the game, using physics, mathematics, logic, spatial reasoning, probability, and problem solving to do so. It’s designed as entertainment, a fun way to relax after a long day of work or study, so it may not seem like the kind of medium that would train your cognitive skills.
Simply put, children who play violent video games show a decrease in activity in areas of the brain dedicated to self-control and an increase in emotional arousal. Some experts who believe there is a link between video games and violence blame the interactive nature of games. The child controls the violence and experiences the violence in his own eyes.
Other studies have shown that playing video games changes the structure of the brain. The areas of the brain involved in attention were more effective in players and regions related to visuospatial skills that were both larger and more effective. Action video game players have an increased ability to be mentally flexible, that is, they can switch from one task to another, compared to non-gamers according to a study. This skill is important in a world that relies heavily on technology that allows various tasks to be available on a single device such as a smartphone or computer.
Many video games often give better results because players work together and encourage players to be social. Video games also offer players the opportunity to take a leadership position, which requires more social networking skills and teamwork to keep other players happy. More than 70% of players play with a friend, either playing against each other or working together as a team. Games like World of Warcraft open up virtual worlds and communities that extend far beyond the computer screen. Playing video games as a team, with other players, can be beneficial for your social development if done in moderation.
According to Professor Ofir Turel, heavy gamers between the ages of 13 and 15 whose self-control system is not yet well developed may have an increased sensitivity to other forms of addiction and be more prone to impulsive and risky behaviors later in life. Click here to learn more about video game addiction, how to treat it, and tips on how to prevent your kids from becoming addicted to video games. On the other hand, the American Psychological Association concluded that there is a “consistent correlation” between the use of violent games and aggression, but finds insufficient evidence to link the playback of violent videos to criminal violence. However, an open letter from a number of media scientists, psychologists, and criminologists finds the APA’s study and conclusion misleading and alarmist. Many experts, including Henry Jenkins of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have noted that there is a reduced number of juvenile delinquency that coincides with the popularity of games like Death Race, Mortal Kombat, Doom and Grand Theft Auto. It concludes that teenage gamers are able to leave the emotional effects of the game behind when the game is over.
However, that’s exactly what the game’s sequel turned out to do when a Florida State University study compared it to Lumosity, a game designed specifically for brain training. In a surprising turn of events, people who played Portal 2 showed an even greater improvement in cognitive ability tests after the game than people who played Lumosity. A study from the University of Oxford found that between those who played video games for an hour or less a day, boys and girls had a better psychosocial adjustment – more social and less hyperactive than those who didn’t. Therefore, casual gamers among us who hit the game’s joystick might get an improved relaxation time, but don’t get carried away.
Numerous experiments, with older participants, show that playing video games can lead to the improvement of all these skills (e.g., Basek et al., 2008). One study found that such play led not only to cognitive improvements, but also to better self-concepts and better quality of life in older participants. Fifty hours of action video games improved visual contrast sensitivity Gaming Giveaways compared to controls (Li et al., 2009). In two previous articles, I summarized evidence that counters common fears about video games. I also highlighted evidence that games can help children develop logical, literary, performance and even social skills. Since then, the evidence has steadily increased regarding the cognitive benefits of these games in particular.
It seems that this causes an increase in the amount of gray matter in their caudate nucleus, while it decreases in the hippocampus. Reduced gray matter in the hippocampus has previously been associated with higher risks of brain diseases, including depression, schizophrenia, PTSD and Alzheimer’s disease. However, players who play games that require players to navigate using spatial strategies such as 3D Super Mario games have increased gray matter in the hippocampus.