Study Finds That Action Games Decrease Gray Matter

Study Finds That Action Games Decrease Gray Matter

A new study suggests that playing action video games can be detrimental to the brain, reducing the amount of gray matter in the hippocampus. Specialists should exert caution in advising video gameplay to improve cognition, the study authors urge.

The impact of video games on our health and well-being has often been studied and discussed, and it is still a very controversial topic. According to the Entertainment Software Association, at least one person in 63 percent of households across the United States plays video games for at least 3 hours per week, making gaming one of the most popular leisure activities.

A new study led by researchers from the Department of Psychology at the Université de Montréal, and from the Douglas Institute in Québec, both in Canada, has now found that action video games, specifically, have a direct negative effect on the brain.

Lead study author Dr. Gregory West, an assistant professor at the Université de Montréal, has published the team’s findings in the current issue of molecular psychiatry.

Action Games Effect On Brain

The current study stems from two considerations. First, the researchers noted that action video games which are defined as “first and third person shooting games” are sometimes recommended by specialists to increase the visual attention of children and adults.

Secondly, according to previous research conducted by Dr. West, action video game players employ a particular kind of navigational strategy called “response learning”, which is based on forming a navigational “habit” and relying on it.

Response learning is also associated with a decrease in the gray matter of the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain linked to episodic memory and orientation. A low amount of gray matter in this brain area is related to Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In looking at the effects of action video games on the hippocampus, Dr. West and his colleagues also took into account any links with the striatum, which is a brain area that receives signals from the hippocampus.

The striatum also contains the caudate nucleus, which plays an important role in the formation of habits and procedural memory that is the kind of memory that we rely on to know how to walk, swim, or ride a bicycle.

According to existing research, Dr. West and his colleagues note that “the caudate nucleus shares an inverse relationship with the hippocampus”.

This means that if we rely too much on habit and procedural memory, we end up underusing the active learning capacities promoted by the hippocampus. This may cause the hippocampus to atrophy, leading to an unhealthy brain structure overall.

51 male and 46 female gamers were recruited for the current research and were eventually tasked with playing either action video games which, in this case, were shooter games such as Call of Duty or 3D platform video games from the Super Mario series.

Response Learners Lose Gray Matter

The participants were first tested to see whether they were “spatial learners”, relying on visual clues and landmarks to make their way through a particular environment, or “response learners”, relying on acquired habits to navigate. Spatial learners have a more active hippocampus, whereas response learners tend to underuse it.

For this test, the researchers developed a “4 on 8 virtual maze”, which is a task that encourages the players to come up with a navigational strategy that links to either the hippocampus or the caudate nucleus.

“The virtual reality task consists of an eight-arm radial maze situated in an enriched environment. The environment contains both distal (far from the player’s perspective) and proximal (close to the player’s perspective) landmarks : two trees, a rock, and mountains”, the researchers explain.

After establishing which players were response learners and which were spatial learners, the researchers asked them to play the action and 3-D platform video games.

It was found that the same amount of time (90 hours) dedicated to gaming had different effects depending on the kind of game that was involved : action games led to hippocampal atrophy, whereas platform games increased the volume of gray matter.

The researchers believe that response learners might be able to increase their gray matter volume by “being encouraged to use spatial strategies” instead. Dr. West and his colleagues also suggest that game developers might even be able to prevent action games from leading to the atrophy of the hippocampus by changing the games design.

Action games, they say, “often include an overlaid head-up display which displays an in-game GPS (global positioning system) to direct players to their next location or event”, discouraging players from actively employing spatial strategies. Without this, the researchers suggest, the games negative effect on the brain might be avoided.

Considering these findings, Dr. West and his colleagues advise caution in “prescribing” action video games to young players, as they might end up doing more harm than good. However, the researchers suggest that game training must be adapted to the necessities of the individuals involved.

“For example”, they say, “patients with Parkinson’s disease who also present with dementia and patients with Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder”, should not be exposed to action video games, as they already have lower volumes of gray matter.

“In contrast”, the researchers add, “patients with Parkinson’s disease without dementia do display dysfunction in the basal ganglia, and may benefit from action video game training”.

Based In Psychological Research, How Is The Future Of Action Games?

Based In Psychological Research, How Is The Future Of Action Games?

Lately, much research was conducted in order to comprehend the repercussions of action video games in your mind and behaviour. What we see is that playing with certain kinds of video games in the ideal doses may improve several cognitive abilities. This may be utilised in the long term to assist people who have shortages in these regions, by way of instance the elderly. This guide will highlight the value of a holistic and impartial perspective in relation to the effect of video games along with their potential usage.

For this reason, it’s crucial that we desist from Terrible theories of “ordinary gamers”, comprehend the benefits and pitfalls of playing video games and attempt to step up attempts within application-oriented research. From our understanding, any challenging video game where response time plays a vital function can be called an action movie game. Even though there’s no generally accepted definition, others specify action movie games as distinguished by the use of violence inside those matches.

The Use Of Media

If it concerns the question if video games (generally) are detrimental or not, a heated discussion is quite likely to begin. Notably demographic groups that aren’t knowledgeable about video games are just four to six times more likely to have a negative opinion concerning that issue (Przybylski., 2014). A reason could just be the unfamiliarity with gambling in these cohorts. Additionally, headlines from the information may also bring about a negative prejudice just on account of the innuendo impact (Wegner et al., 1981). An innuendo (matches may be detrimental) is an announcement about something (matches are detrimental) using a qualifier regarding the announcement (announcement could most likely be accurate).

The innuendo effect takes place when the qualifier has little if any result. In cases like this, games are perceived as dangerous. What’s more, it might be proven that incriminating innuendos had the identical effect as straight incriminating offenses and that the innuendo result was only minimally decreased, even when origin was one of a terrible reputation (Wegner et al., 1981). Further findings demonstrate that efforts to decrease this impact (e.g, clarifying statements or important attempt) might be particularly ineffective in the event of low processing motivation of this viewer (Kim and Chun., 2009).

Reading this research attentively, an individual can’t locate such causal connection. Nevertheless, it will be wrong to completely blame the press for its policy. For example, concerning health related science it might be proven not only information are not worse but also the media releases (e.g., in the investigators college) these information are predicated on (Sumner et al., 2014).

The aforementioned information reports, that essentially said that playing video games contributes to Alzheimer’s disease, were according to a media release from the Douglas Mental Health University Institute (2015). Regardless of the above mentioned limit, journalists may fall for announcements such as this (honest communication between scientists and administrative personnel, politicians, politicians or put people is now also addressed as a significant future topic from the cognitive science area, Gluck and Gray, 2015). Researchers must know about their own responsibility.

What’s A Gamer?

Do the typical consumers, journalists and researchers have the exact same idea of a standard gamer? We ought to be conscious that any generally received pre-millennium notion of a gamer is obsolete. Approximately 42 percent of Americans play video games for 3h or a week and approximately half of these are feminine, which roughly one third plays activity movie games.

Therefore, the term video game participant no longer describes only a couple of individuals among the populace. Video games are a part of our daily lives, such as computers, smart phones or navigation aids. Thus it’s essential that we become clear about the negative and positive outcomes. Today’s players are tomorrow’s older, whilst today’s elderly aren’t yesterday’s players. This easy but nonetheless important fact proves that study in this area is desperately needed.

Aging And Matches

Aging moves hand-in-hand with decrease in many psychological places. In the next, the focus will probably likely be exemplary put on three of these regions as it pertains to aging impacts and the potential effect of playing video games.

Spatial Cognition

Dwelling in an unknown environment like a retirement house presents a struggle for the older. Relatives and caregivers are, as an instance, often faced with drifting and becoming lost behaviour.

It’s contended that since activity video players rely on reaction approaches than non-action video players, playing such sort of matches may lead to an increase of grey matter of the caudate nucleus. Due to the reverse relation between these structures, the writers recommend that a reduction of hippocampal volume may happen, which in turn is related to Alzheimer’s disease (West et al., 2015). Therefore, video players might feel attracted to matches.

If additional studies employing quantitative neuroimaging like volumetry (MRI) could demonstrate that there’s not any negative influence on the hippocampus, specific games may be new or used ones may be made based on neuroscientific information to boost route learning abilities.

Perceptual Abilities And Focus

Another set of abilities, which decreases over time, worries visual understanding. In a study the helpful field of view was quantified and compared to this automobile crash history of those participants. The authors could demonstrate that problems in the business of visual attention will be correlated with a rise of automobile crashes in elderly drivers (Ball et al., 1993). Another illustration is contrast sensitivity.

Action video games can help enhance visual understanding (Bejjanki et al., 2014) and visual focus, yet the specific mechanisms remain uncertain. In a recent article, (Franceschini et al., 2015) outline those findings and show that prevention programs based on activity video games might be tremendously beneficial in relation to developmental dyslexia.

Gamers also appear to be much better in relation to their own attentional ability (Green and Bavelier., 2003). Furthermore, ERP measures demonstrate that when placed to a visual attention task, activity video players fluctuate significantly from non-video activity players in relation to their own N2pc component (West et al., 2015), a part that’s long called a sign of visual focus (Eimer., 1996).

Last, video games may also help treat visual impairments like amblyopia “lazy eye”. To the contrary, this usually means that mature amblyopia is regarded as hard to deal with. But, (Li et al., 2011) revealed a remedy composed of occlusion treatment and sport treatment may improve visual acuity in adults.

Task Switching

In regular life, the ability to change jobs and execute tasks concurrently is getting increasingly more important, particularly due to the effect of information technologies. (Kray and Lindenberger., 2000) discovered by using verbal, figural and numerical substance that older and middle-aged adults were far significantly less effective in organizing and keeping two separate task sets rather than a single (it must be noted that the so called change prices weren’t too powerful for numerical substance).

Recent studies reveal that gaming could be related to improvements in regards to activity switching abilities. For example, there is apparently a causal connection between playing action video games and also decrease in switch prices (Green et al., 2012).

The Entire Image

Particularly when considering demographic change, the true job of video games inside our society and also the promising prognosis based on preliminary research, it becomes evident that researchers will need to bolster their own efforts in this region. What’s more, so as to guarantee transport and functional relevance we will need to distinguish more precisely within the frame of our study. What type of game does actually help? Which are the mechanics behind these impacts? How do these be pulled and executed in a valuable way so as to come up with methods of curative usage?

Finding answers to those questions won’t be simple, but we could donate together with focusing on the beneficial and remain seriously open-minded. Therefore, we also must discover the ideal dose. These days, a lot of men and women rely on their telephones. They certainly can ease our work and regular life, but excessive usage may be harmful too (e.g, dependence). Researchers and lay folks are conscious of this, but barely anybody claims to depart smartphones, which are improper. Surely, video games won’t turn in the fountain of youth (Cranach the Elder., 1546), yet, they may help generations ahead to relieve some unwanted effects of aging or neurological impairments generally when ensuring patients’ approval.

Can Action Games Expand The Brain’s Cognitive Abilities?

Can Action Games Expand The Brain's Abilities?

The human brain is malleable it learns and adapts. Numerous research studies have focused on the impact of action video games on the brain by measuring cognitive abilities, such as perception, attention and reaction time. An international team of psychologists, led by the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, has assembled data from the last fifteen years to quantify how action video games impact cognition. The research has resulted in two meta-analyses, published in the journal psychological bulletin, which reveal a significant improvement in the cognitive abilities of gamers.

Psychologists have been studying the impact of video games on the brain ever since the late 80s, when Pacman and arcade games first took roots. The present study focuses on one specific video game genre, action video (war or shooter) games that have long been considered as mind-numbing. Do they influence the cognitive skills of players.

“We decided to assemble all the relevant data from 2000 to 2015 in an attempt to answer this question, as it was the only way to have a proper overview of the real impact of action video games”, explains Daphné Bavelier, professor in the Psychology Section at UNIGE’s Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences (FPSE). Psychologists from UNIGE and the universities of Columbia, Santa Barbara and Wisconsin dissected the published literature (articles, theses and conference abstracts) over the course of a year. In addition, they contacted over sixty professors, asking them for any unpublished data that might throw light on the role of action video games. Two meta-analyses emerged from the research.

Profile Of Action Gamers

A total of 8,970 individuals between the ages of 6 and 40, including action gamers and non-gamers, took a number of psychometric tests in studies conducted by laboratories across the world with the aim of evaluating their cognitive abilities. The assessments included spatial attention (e.g. quickly detecting a dog in a herd of animals) as well as assessing their skills at managing multiple tasks simultaneously and changing their plans according to pre-determined rules. It was found that the cognition of gamers was better by one-half of a standard deviation compared to non-gamers.

However, this first meta-analysis failed to answer a crucial question. “We needed to think about what the typical gamer profile is”, points out Benoit Bediou, researcher in the FPSE Psychology Section. “Do they play action type video games because they already have certain cognitive skills that make them good players or on the contrary, are their high cognitive abilities actually developed by playing games”.

Training Your Brain By Playing Action Video Games

The psychologists proceeded to analyze intervention studies as part of the second meta-analysis. 2,883 people (men and women) who played for a maximum of one hour a week were first tested for their cognitive abilities and then randomly divided into two groups: one played action games (war or shooter games), the other played control games (SIMS, Puzzle, Tetris). Both groups played for at least 8 hours over a week and up to 50 hours over 12 weeks. At the end of the training, participants underwent cognitive testing to measure any changes in their cognitive abilities.

“The aim was to find out whether the effects of action gaming on the brain are causal”, continues Bavelier, adding : “That’s why these intervention studies always compare and contrast a group that is obliged to play an action game with one obliged to play a video control game, where the mechanics are very different. This active control group ensures that the effects resulting from playing action games really do result from the nature of this kind of game. In other words, they are not due to being part of a group that is asked to undertake an engrossing task or that is the centre of scientific attention (placebo effect)”.

The results were beyond dispute, individuals playing action videos increased their cognition more than those playing the control games with the difference in cognitive abilities between these two training groups being of one-third of a standard deviation. “The research, which was carried out over several years all over the world, proves the real effects of action video games on the brain and paves the way for using action video games to expand cognitive abilities”, argues Bediou.

Despite the good news for avid gamers, it is worth highlighting that these beneficial effects were observed in studies that asked individuals to space their game play out over a period of many weeks to months rather than to engage in a large amount of gaming in a single sitting. As is true in any learning activity, short bouts of repeated practice is much preferred over binging.

The two meta-analyses, which covered fifteen years of research, underline the importance of sharing data between different laboratories in order to validate results on an international level without suffering from biases specific to each experiment and working group. Moreover, these meta-analyses help to further improve our understanding of the brain’s plasticity and potentially create games specifically designed to develop attention or spatial cognition.