Playing action video games may be bad for your brain, study finds

  • Playing action video games may be bad for your brain, study finds

Playing action video games may be bad for your brain, study finds

The study abstract states, "The hippocampus is critical to healthy cognition, yet results in the current study show that action video game players have reduced grey matter within the hippocampus".

They caused the most damage to the hippocampus - the part of the brain responsible for orientation and memory.

"If action video games lead to decreases in grey matter in the hippocampus (of young adults), caution should be exerted when encouraging their use (by) children, young adults and older adults to promote cognitive skills such as visual short-term memory and visual attention", West suggested.

And the more depleted the hippocampus becomes, the more a person is at risk of developing brain illnesses and diseases ranging from depression to schizophrenia, PTSD and Alzheimer's disease.

Spatial memory helps people orient themselves in the space around them.

"Because spatial strategies were shown to be associated with increases in hippocampal grey matter during video game playing, it remains possible that response learners could be encouraged to use spatial strategies to counteract against negative effects on the hippocampal system", the study reads.

"Action video games designed without in-game Global Positioning System, or (without) wayfinding routes overlaid on the game's display for the player to follow, could better encourage spatial learning during action video game playing".

A new study claims that the more a region of the brain called caudate nucleus is used to navigate through a game, the more a key memory centre in the brain, called hippocampus, loses cells and shrinks.

The games-which none of the participants had previously played-included first-person shooters like Call of Duty, Killzone, Medal of Honor and Borderlands 2 or 3D-platform games including Super Mario 64. Taxi drivers of London, for example, have been shown to have more developed hippocampi.

The team recommends that action-game manufacturers adjust in-game designs to stimulate spatial learning.

Playing 3D games for the same amount of time, however, increased gray matter in the hippocampal memory system of all participants.

The study is published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

The researchers used a virtual-reality test, MRIs and 90 hours of game-playing involving 100 people who were either expert or nonexpert players. Study lead author West suggests that adults play shooter games for only two to three hours a week.

"Thus the interpretation of harm, although attention-grabbing, was not peer-reviewed and appears to have been introduced afterwards".

"Extrapolating from small-scale and noisy studies like these is extremely problematic".