In conducting my researcher to give a presentation on Internet/gaming addiction, I have found massive quantities of information on the correlates between video games and the effects that they have on people’s behaviors and a little less so on the effects that they have on the brain. And one thing has been clearly found, that the youth who play video games classified as very violent, usually rated M for Mature (18+), do exhibit increases in aggression and reductions in empathy, most likely due to a desensitization of the value of life and violence in these games. But, what does that mean for the brain itself. Now is when I think back to the typical excuse for parents to refuse the purchasing of video games for their children, saying “No, because it’ll rot you brain out.” Now is that really true? A study conducted by Simone Kühn and colleagues conducted a study that provides findings to the contrary, and goes even further as to say that it increases the thickness of certain structures.
Kühn and colleagues conducted analyses on information collected from 152, 72 male and 80 female, 14-year old European adolescents obtained from the IMAGEN project which included MRI scans during the time the project was active. From these scans, in conjunction with a questionnaire administered at the time, the research team was able to assess the cortical thickness of certain areas of the brain in individuals and correlate it with the amount of time spent on average playing video games in a normal week. What they found was in general a positive correlation in reported gaming hours and cortical thickness in the left Dorsal Lateral Prefrontal Cortex (DLPFC) and Frontal Eye Fields (FEF).
The DLPFC has been associated and predominantly involved in the manipulation of decision relevant information, working memory, considering options, and integrating the two prior functions to predict possible outcomes. There is information proposing that the left DLPFC is at work due to its specialization of executing responses contingent on enviornmental information. FEFs are involved in the integration of visuo-motor information relevant for the execution of eye movements and the allocation of visuo-spatial attention which is pivotal for video gaming. Kühn et al.’s further research brought to light that video gamers also in general do better in tasks requiring contrast detection, visual searching, multiple object tracking, and letter-recognition with flankers, and decision-making. What’s further is that in a sample if people without any video game training who had VBMs, a neuroimaging analysis technique, both before and after treatment, were told to play 30-min of Super Mario 64, a classic, for 2 months showed increased growth in the right hippocampus, DLPFC, and cerebellum. So, in conclusion, Kids, if your parents tell you that video games rot your brain tell them to read this blog post, this article, and that science says NO. Then tell them to buy you your game…. And if they still say no, at least you tried.
Kühn, S., Lorenz, R., Banaschewski, T., Barker, G. J., Büchel, C., Conrod, P. J., . . . Gallinat, J. (2014). Positive Association of Video Game Playing with Left Frontal Cortical Thickness in Adolescents . Public Library of Science, 9(3). Retrieved April 3, 2014, from http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0091506