The advantages of video gaming

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Playing video games is a popular leisure activity among children and adults, and may therefore potentially influence brain structure. We have previously shown a positive association between probability of gray matter (GM) volume in the ventral striatum and frequent video gaming in adolescence. Here we set out to investigate structural correlates of video gaming in adulthood, as the effects observed in adolescents may reflect only a fraction of the potential neural long-term effects seen in adults. On magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of 62 male adults, we computed voxel-based morphometry to explore the correlation of GM with the lifetime amount of video gaming (termed joystick years). We found a significant positive association between GM in bilateral parahippocamal region (entorhinal cortex) and left occipital cortex/inferior parietal lobe and joystick years (P<0.001, corrected for multiple comparisons). An exploratory analysis showed that the entorhinal GM volume can be predicted by the video game genres played, such as logic/puzzle games and platform games contributing positively, and action-based role-playing games contributing negatively. Furthermore, joystick years were positively correlated with hippocampus volume. The association of lifetime amount of video game playing with bilateral entorhinal cortex, hippocampal and occipital GM volume could reflect adaptive neural plasticity related to navigation and visual attention.

Kühn, S., & Gallinat, J. (2013). Amount of lifetime video gaming is positively associated with entorhinal, hippocampal and occipital volume Molecular Psychiatry, 19 (7), 842-847 DOI: 10.1038/mp.2013.100

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Video gaming is a highly pervasive activity, providing a multitude of complex cognitive and motor demands. Gaming can be seen as an intense training of several skills. Associated cerebral structural plasticity induced has not been investigated so far. Comparing a control with a video gaming training group that was trained for 2 months for at least 30 min per day with a platformer game, we found significant gray matter (GM) increase in right hippocampal formation (HC), right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and bilateral cerebellum in the training group. The HC increase correlated with changes from egocentric to allocentric navigation strategy. GM increases in HC and DLPFC correlated with participants’ desire for video gaming, evidence suggesting a predictive role of desire in volume change. Video game training augments GM in brain areas crucial for spatial navigation, strategic planning, working memory and motor performance going along with evidence for behavioral changes of navigation strategy. The presented video game training could therefore be used to counteract known risk factors for mental disease such as smaller hippocampus and prefrontal cortex volume in, for example, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and neurodegenerative disease.

Kühn, S., Gleich, T., Lorenz, R., Lindenberger, U., & Gallinat, J. (2013). Playing Super Mario induces structural brain plasticity: gray matter changes resulting from training with a commercial video game Molecular Psychiatry, 19 (2), 265-271 DOI: 10.1038/mp.2013.120 (pdf)


Read also: do you miss good old Joystick days? It really changed your life!

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