Video Gaming Helps Strengthen Several Brain Regions: Study
October 30, 2013

Video Gaming Helps Strengthen Several Brain Regions: Study

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

If you have found yourself immersed in last month's release of "Grand Theft Auto 5" or are planning to lock yourself in your room for "Call of Duty: Ghosts" when it comes out next week, don't worry too much about the effect it may have on your brain.

According to a new study, video gaming can be beneficial, strengthening several regions of your noggin.

The study, conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Charité University Medicine St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus, found playing video games can increase brain regions responsible for spatial orientation, memory formation, strategic planning and motor skills. Scientists say the positive effects of gaming could provide therapeutic interventions that target psychiatric disorders.

Scientists asked adults to play the video game “Super Mario 64” over a period of two months for 30 minutes a day. During this time, brain volume was quantified using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The team found that participants showed increases of grey matter, in which the cell bodies of the nerve cells of the brain are situated. These effects were observed in the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum.

These regions are involved in functions like fine motor skills of the hands and memory formation. The team found the changes in these regions were more pronounced in participants who expressed a strong desire to play the video game.

“While previous studies have shown differences in brain structure of video gamers, the present study can demonstrate the direct causal link between video gaming and a volumetric brain increase. This proves that specific brain regions can be trained by means of video games,” study leader Simone Kühn, senior scientist at the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, said in a statement.

The team believes video games could be therapeutically useful for patients with mental disorders in which brain regions are altered or reduced in size, such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

“Many patients will accept video games more readily than other medical interventions,” psychiatrist Jürgen Gallinat, co-author of the study at Charité University Medicine St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus, said in a statement.

Researchers plan on further investigating the effects of video gaming in patients with mental health issues. They are currently studying the effects of video gaming in people who suffer from PTSD.