Video Games on the Brain

After years of being constantly told about how my obsession with games was bad for my eyes, turning my brain to mush and that it was a waste of time, I can now finally turn around to those commentators and say aloud:” You’re wrong!”

Because after a recent study, it was found that video games can stimulate the growth of neurons in the brain, the term for this growth is rather beautifully called ‘neurogenesis’. Which in itself sounds rather sci-fi.

According to this study, the connectivity in the regions of the brain that are responsible for our spacial orientation, formation of memory, motor skills and strategic planning was shown to have grown exponentially when the subjects in experiment group spent their time playing video games.

The 2013 October study, imaginatively titled ‘Playing Super Mario Induces Structural Brain Plasticity: Grey Matter Changes Resulting from Training with a Commercial Video Game’. Took place in Berlin at the prestigious Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Charite University.

The programs researchers have predicted that video games would be helpful in a number of therapeutic programs for targeting psychiatric disorders. By altering the affected areas of the brain and changing them in size using video game therapy.

The studies leader, Simone Kuhn praised the benefits of game therapy, stating: “While previous studies have shown differences in brain structure of video gamers, the present study can demonstrate a direct causal link between video gaming and a volumetric brain increase.”

She continued: “This proves that specific brain regions can be trained by means of video games.”

Co-author of this breakthrough discovery, Psychiatrist Jürgen Gallinat added: “Many patients will accept video games more readily than other medical interventions.”

But it doesn’t stop there; video games are also being used to improve the growth of damaged areas of the brain in stroke victims.

Using a series of Xbox Kinects, researchers of the study asked a group of 18 perfectly healthy volunteers between 49 and 72, plus five who had suffered from a stroke recently. The groups were asked to play several games of Fruit Ninja using the Xbox Kinect motion control feature to cut the onscreen fruit.

The participants were then asked to play the game for an hour a day, five days a week for three weeks.

Afterwards the researchers found the stroke patients had shown incredible improvements in their upper limb mobility.

MRI scans were taken of the patients before and after the experiment, the stroke sufferers were found to have developed a different brain structure.

Thanks to the therapy their primary sensorimotor cortex, supplementary motor area and cerebellum sections that had suffered damage from the stroke were found to have reorganized themselves to cope with the damaged sections.

Just about any game can be used to help improve brain function in stroke victims, common practice is to use card games or simple board games.

Associate Professor of Communication Disorders and Sciences at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Brenda Wilson PHD supports this in her statement in Playing Around with Recovery by Mike Mills.

In which she says:” You can use about any game. You just have to understand what kind of cognitive demands and skills are involved with whatever you are using.”

But it’s not just video games that are aiding in brain development; in 2002 a study found that regular games of Bingo helped the elderly by keeping their minds intact.

Repeated sessions of the game were found to be keeping them more alert than non-players further into their old age.

Julie Winston of Southampton University stated that her research found regular players were faster and more accurate than non-bingo players when it came to tests of measuring mental speed, scanning for information and memory.

Although most tend to use the typical pad and paper there are a few who have migrated to the online gaming side since there now a lot of new bingo sites.

Websites such as CheersBingo, Mecca and which have been nominated as some of the best bingo sites.

Gloria Pattinson, a spokeswoman from the National Bingo Association commentated: “The skill needed in bingo is quite high which is why these findings are no surprise. You have to be a good listener and search for numbers quickly.”

She continued: “In Bingo it’s very important not to miss a number and you have to sustain your attention sometimes for several hours. Concentration has been shown to decline with age so Bingo could be helping older people sustain their attention for longer.”

So whether you’re one of those people that plays every Call of Duty, a PC gamer that isn’t happy unless everything is modded or just someone who casually plays Angry Birds every now and then, be happy in knowing that your gaming habits are doing you a world of good.



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