Video Games Improve Brain Regions Responsible For Attention And Visuospatial Skills

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To all the steadfast gamers out there who are loathed to leave the couch for any reason beyond biological necessity — and to the moms of such super players — it is your lucky day.

A new review published in the journal Frontiers in Human Science reports that playing video games enhances the part of the brain that deals with attention and the visual perception of the spatial relationships of objects. The researchers also delved into how the neural “reward system” triggers gaming addictions.

“Games have sometimes been praised or demonized, often without real data backing up those claims,” Marc Palaus, one of the leading authors of the review, said in a press release. “Moreover, gaming is a popular activity, so everyone seems to have strong opinions on the topic.”

As such, Palaus and fellow researchers set out to better “understand the relationship between the use of video games and their neural correlates, taking into account the whole variety of cognitive factors that they encompass.”

A Closer Look at the Research and Methodology

Palaus and his colleagues drew their conclusions from the findings of 116 scientific studies: 22 examined structural changes in the brain, and 100 investigated changes in brain functionality and behavior. The team aimed to see if any trends had emerged in the aggregate research to date.

The investigators performed queries of keywords relevant to “video games,” the various kinds of players – “casual, core, and hardcore gamers,” and various brain changes. They also classified studies exploring Internet Gaming Disorder and research about violent video games.

“We focused on how the brain reacts to video game exposure, but these effects do not always translate to real-life changes,” Palaus said. “It’s likely that videogames have both positive (on attention, visual and motor skills) and negative aspects (risk of addiction), and it is essential we embrace this complexity.”

The researchers discovered studies that found gamers show improvements in sustained attention, selective attention, and other types of attention functions.

The team confirmed that gamers’ brain regions that managed attention were more effective in focusing on challenging duties.

Brain regions related to visuospatial skills in gamers also worked better and physically grew bigger. The research article’s authors cited a study finding that the right hippocampus, which powers navigation, was larger in both regular gamers and those merely gaming for experimental purposes.

The research article cited studies revealing craving responses in the brain’s reward system after investigators presented gaming cues to the subjects. People with other addictions share the same type of brain activity and changes.

More Benefits of Playing Video Games

Other benefits of gaming covered in a previous saludmóvil™ story included decision-making skills, multi-tasking capacity, exposing kids to specialized skills as well as sparking curiosity in out-of-game subjects.

A study cited in the journal Pediatrics reported that kids video games had an overall positive effect on kids, “showing “higher levels of prosocial behavior and life satisfaction and lower levels of conduct problems, hyperactivity, peer problems, and emotional symptoms.”

While there regularly point out the adverse effects of screen time for teens, another researcher, Andrew Przybylski, reported that there might be a “digital sweet spot” when it comes to how much time people spend on such devices. His team’s findings suggested the following daily criteria:

  • Playing video games for about 1 hour and 40 minutes,
  • Fooling with their smartphone for about 1 hour and 57 minutes,
  • Watching videos for about 3 hours and 41 minutes,
  • Using computers for about 4 hours and 17 minutes.

To which we happily say, Game on, playa!

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