The Brain

Playing Video Games Can Boost Brain Volume

November 7, 2013 | by Lisa Winter

Photo credit: flitcroft

There has been a lot of recent research to suggest that video games improve brain performance - and now a recent study has shown that just 30 minutes of gameplay per day for two months can actually increase the volume of gray matter in the areas of the brain that control spatial awareness, memory, and strategic thinking. 

 

The study was led by Simone Kühn from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and was published in Molecular Psychiatry. Kühn’s research interests lie in the structure and function of the brain as well as exploring its plasticity.

 

For 8 weeks, the test group played Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes every day. MRI images from before and after the study were then compared for each of the participants and a control group that did not play video games during the study. The results showed that the test group incurred a significant increase in gray matter volume in the right hippocampal formation, right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and on both sides in the cerebellum. The control group did not receive this boost in volume.

 

The team believes that video games could be a therapeutic tool for mental disorders that these areas of the brain. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been connected to a reduction in volume in the hippocampus, the region responsible for memory. When the volume of the hippocampus is reduced, memory recall does not work properly and causes sufferers to be reminded of situations like combat, rape, and natural disasters more easily. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and Alzheimer’s disease have also been linked to smaller right hippocampal volumes.

 

The research team is careful to note that not all video games are created equal and may not deliver the same brain-boosting power that was seen in this study. This may necessitate the adoption of a second rating system to identify the positive attributes of a particular video game in addition to the current system that describes the negative content of the game, such as violence or profanity.