A 2015 report from the Entertainment Software Association states that more than 150 million Americans have been affected by video games, with 4 in 5 households receiving regular exposure. As this global epidemic continues to spread, one question remains at the forefront of everyone’s minds – what are the true side effects of repeated exposure to digital games?
Numerous academic studies have attempted to answer this very question – find out exactly what happens to the human brain on video games by checking out the following evidence-based cognitive research studies:
Improved Memory & Motor Performance
A recent study published in biological psychiatry journal Molecular Psychiatry found that test subjects who played platforming video games for 30 minutes each day over a two month period had a significant increase in gray matter size in certain areas of their brain, when compared to a control group who did not play games throughout the same period. The authors determined that video game training enhances gray matter in the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex, and bilateral cerebellum, vital areas of the brain necessary for working memory, spatial navigation, and motor performance. Now that scientists have demonstrated a link between video game play and a volumetric size increase in certain areas of the brain, further research is necessary to determine if video game treatments can effectively treat mental disorders associated with these areas, including schizophrenia and PTSD. Read the full study here.
Improved Multitasking Abilities
A 2013 study titled Improving Multi-tasking Ability Through Action Videogames sought to determine if action video game play can help improve one’s multitasking abilities. Two groups were studied – one played action video games for 50 hours total over 10 weeks, while the other played no video games during the same period. Afterwards, all participants completed the challenging Multi-Attribute Task Battery (MATB), a simulated task environment which tests many of the skills that aircraft pilots must regularly perform. Maintaining this environment requires participants to maintain focus on multiple tasks simultaneously – two tasks which requiring constant monitoring, in addition to two secondary tasks which require the user’s intermittent attention throughout. Researchers found that the 10-week action video game treatment resulted in improved performance, faster reaction speeds, and fewer errors when performing the secondary tasks, with no effect on primary task performance. Read the full study here.
Improved Reading Skills Among Dyslexic Children
A 2013 study published in Current Biology suggests that playing action video games can dramatically improve reading skills among dyslexic children. Study participants consisted of 20 dyslexic test subjects assigned into two groups – one set tasked with playing an action portion of Ubisoft’s Rayman Raving Rabbids, the other group playing a non-action segment of the same game. The study found that those who played the action portion of the game for nine sessions of 80 minutes per day (12 hours total) achieved significantly improved reading speeds, without any effect on accuracy, when compared to the group who played the non-action segment of the same video game. In fact, the video game treatment proved so successful that the resulting improvements were equal to, or in some cases greater than, traditional reading treatments for dyslexic children. Read the full study here.
Video games are certainly not a flawless medium with no downsides whatsoever- after all, too much of anything can prove to be harmful. However, we reject unsubstantiated notions that video games are nothing more than a mindless waste of time. As the above studies suggest, video games have the power to do more than simply entertain- and as more research is conducted, our understanding of their positive impacts on the human mind will only continue to develop.
While you’re here, we invite you to explore some of our other articles highlighting specific positive aspects of video games:
How Educational Video Games Can Help Foster Social and Emotional Learning
How Game-based Learning Engages Struggling Students
How VR Changes Learning