Those of us who grew up playing videogames will probably have heard things like “stop playing videogames, they will make you stupid” coming from their parents. But vidogames may in fact have some benefits when it comes to our brains?
During the past week, many news outlets reported on a Canadian study published on PLOS One, in which the researchers conducted a series of tests on a group of people between the age of 55 and 75, for a period of 6 months. The goal of the research was to find out if 3D-platform videogames could be used to increase grey matter neural structures.
The test subjects were divided in three groups: one group was asked not do to anything and come back in 6 months. The second group was told to learn to play the piano with the help of a software. The third group was told to play Super Mario 64 at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week, over the course of the 6 months.
At the end of the 6 months all the participants took the MoCa cognitive test, a short-term memory test, and a special brain scan examining grey-matter specifically.
The group not doing any sort of activity saw a decline in cognitive performance and reduced grey-matter, and while the “music group” displayed an increase in grey-matter, this was much more noticeable in the videogame-playing group, who also registered higher scores in the MoCa test.
The researchers think that these results have to do with the particular type of videogames that was used as training, and the brain processes that play into it, specifically the fact that “3-D platform games require the use of spatial memory processes to build a cognitive map of in-game environments and therefore require learning that depends on the hippocampus”.
While they admit that the idea of videogames as cognitive training requires more research and address the limits of their study, the researchers seem fairly optimistic regarding the potential for videogames to be integrated as part of a cognitive-decline prevention regime.
So perhaps, videogames are not so unhealthy after all?