Action video gaming may improve cognitive flexibility and brain plasticity
Playing video games has become a commonplace part of daily life for people of all ages.
In the past twenty years, advances in technology have led to a dramatic increase in the popularity of all types of entertaining video games and "brain games" designed to optimize cognitive function and improve mental fitness. Subsequently, there is growing interest about the impact that video gaming has on brain structure, cognitive function, and human behavior.
Two years ago, I wrote a Psychology Today blog post based on a 2013 study, “Playing Super Mario Induces Structural Brain Plasticity: Gray Matter Changes Resulting from Training with a Commercial Video Game (link is external),” conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Charité University Medicine in Berlin.
This research looked at the benefits of action-oriented video games, not brain-training games. In an October 2013 Psychology Today post, "Video Gaming Can Increase Brain Size and Connectivity," I wrote about this study saying:
A new study has found that video gaming can stimulate neurogenesis (growth of new neurons) and connectivity in the brain regions responsible for spatial orientation, memory formation and strategic planning, as well as, fine motor skills. Brain volume was quantified using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In comparison to a control group, the video gaming group showed increases of gray matter, which houses the cell bodies of nerve cells in the brain.
Neurogenesis and neuroplasticity improvements were observed in the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum (link is external). These brain regions are involved in functions such as spatial navigation, memory formation, strategic planning and fine motor skills of the hands. Gaming brings together the cerebral function of the cerebrum (link is external) with the cerebellar muscle memory of the cerebellum which improves cognitive function and performance.
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