The Brain

Study Finds Gamers Have Greater Cognitive Function And More Grey Matter

April 28, 2015 | by Caroline Reid

Photo credit: MILAN, ITALY - OCTOBER 24: People play at Games Week 2014, event dedicated to video games and electronic entertainment on OCTOBER 24, 2014 in Milan. by Stefano Tinti via Shutterstock

Gamers everywhere rejoice!  It turns out that gaming prowess is an indication of a better connected brain.  This latest conclusion was drawn from research which looked at the cognitive function of Action Video Gamers (AVGs) of different levels of proficiency. For the ‘noobs’ out there, action video games subject the gamer to physical challenges, including hand–eye coordination and reaction-time games. This could be racing or fighting for example.

There’s already an abundance of evidence that shows that expert AVG players (gamers who are regional or national champions at AVG competitions) have superior cognitive ability to amateurs. This lead the research team, led by Dezhong Yao, to investigate the brains of expert and amateur gamers to see if they could continue to differentiate the differences between them.

As described in Scientific Reports, the study consisted of performing MRI scans of the brains of 27 expert gamers and 30 amateur gamers. The scans focused on networks within a region called the insular cortex, which is associated with perception, motor control and cognitive functioning.

The results showed that the expert gamers had greater functional connectivity in their brain hemispheres than the amateurs. The image below shows a map of the left and right hemispheres of the brain and the regions where connections exist. The bold, white lines show where the experts had significant enhancements when compared to the amateurs.  

Diagram of locations of superior connections in brains of expert AVG games when compared to amatuers via original article in Nature

The regions of superior connections were largely in the left hemisphere; often associated with calculations, logic and objective thinking. It would certainly indicate why the expert gamers are superior when it comes to things like problem solving within action video games.

Experts were also found to have more grey matter in their brains than amateurs, particularly in the left insular cortex and the central insular sulcus. Grey matter processes information in the brain, meaning that gamers with more grey matter can process data more effectively.

So the next time you find yourself playing video games, just remember that you could be improving your cognitive ability while you’re gaming. There seems to be evidence that you can increase the ammount of grey matter in your brain, which means if you practise you too can be an expert gamer... And have a better connected brain!