Cynthia McKanzie – MessageToEagle.com – It seems playing video games as a child is not such a bad idea after all. Not only is it fun but studies show it can be beneficial in the long term.
Researchers have successfully demonstrated playing video games can lead to structural changes in the brain, including increasing the size of some regions, or to functional changes, such as activating the areas responsible for attention or visual-spatial skills.
What is even more interesting is the fact these cognitive changes can take place even years after people stop playing!
Credit: Public Domain
Scientists from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) asked 27 people between the ages of 18 and 40 with and without any kind of experience with video gaming to participate in the study.
The results show that people without experience of playing video games as a child did not benefit from improvements in processing and inhibiting irrelevant stimuli. Indeed, they were slower than those who had played games as children, which matched what had been seen in earlier studies.
Likewise, “people who played regularly as children performed better from the outset in processing 3D objects, although these differences were mitigated after the period of training in video gaming when both groups showed similar levels,” Marc Palaus, who has a Ph.D. from the UOC said in a press statement.
The study lasted a month and the researchers analyzed participants’ cognitive skills, including working memory, at three points: before starting the training in video gaming, at the end of the training, and fifteen days later. The video game used was Nintendo’s Super Mario 64.
The study also included 10 sessions of transcranial magnetic stimulation. This is non-invasive brain stimulation through the skin without the need to get to the brain tissue that temporarily changes the brain’s activity.
“It uses magnetic waves which, when applied to the surface of the skull, are able to produce electrical currents in underlying neural populations and modify their activity,” explained Palaus.
The researchers wanted to find out if combining video gaming and this kind of stimulation would improve cognitive performance, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. There are a number of possible causes, including the experimental nature of the parameters for the stimulation.
“We aimed to achieve lasting changes. Under normal circumstances, the effects of this stimulation can last from milliseconds to tens of minutes. We wanted to achieve improved performance of certain brain functions that lasted longer than this,” said Palaus.
Strengthening Cognitive Skills
In this case, the video game used was a 3D platform adventure, but there are many genres of video game which can influence cognitive functions differently.
According to Palaus, what most have in common is that they involve elements that make people want to continue playing, and that they gradually get harder and present a constant challenge. “These two things are enough to make it an attractive and motivating activity, which, in turn, requires constant and intense use of our brain’s resources.”
“Video games are a perfect recipe for strengthening our cognitive skills, almost without our noticing.” Nonetheless, he stressed that these improvements only have a limited effect on performance of other activities not linked to video gaming, as is the case with most cognitive training.
So the next time you complain your child is playing video games, remember it’s not a completely useless activity and there is scientific proof video games improve memory. Still do not forget that your child’s brain also requires knowledge, and it’s never wrong to read a good book.
As for us adults, there are also options to deal with the memory problem. Many people find it hard to remember things, but there are simple tricks to improve memory. Learning something quickly and remembering it for a long time is not the same thing. If you want to learn something on a deep level, you should try Richard Feynman’s simple technique that works well.
Another great way to improve memory is listening to music.
Written by Cynthia McKanzie – MessageToEagle.com Staff WriterExpand for references
Palaus, M.; Viejo-Sobera, R.; Redolar-Ripoll D. and Marrón E.M. “Cognitive Enhancement via Neuromodulation and Video Games: Synergistic Effects?”. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2020.00235.