To better understand how video games affect the brain, German researchers asked 23 adults with a median age of 25 to play “Super Mario 64” for 30 minutes a day over a period of two months. A separate control group did not play video games at all.
Examining the brains of the two groups using an MRI machine, they found that the gaming group had a rise in gray matter in the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum — areas of the brain responsible for spatial navigation, memory formation, strategic planning and fine motor skills in the hands.
British researchers found that certain video games, particularly strategic games such as “Starcraft,” can increase a player’s “brain flexibility,” which the scientists described as “a cornerstone of human intelligence.”
The study, conducted at Queen Mary University of London and University College London, is based on psychological tests conducted before and after 72 volunteers played “Starcraft” or the life-simulation game “The Sims” for 40 hours over six to eight weeks. They found that participants assigned to play “Starcraft” experienced gains in their performance on psychological tests, completing cognitive flexibility tasks with greater speed and accuracy.
Playing brain-teasing game for just two hours a week may help slow the degree of mental decay associated with the natural aging process, according to a study from the University of Iowa.
A study from the University of Padua throws cold water on the idea that video games are bad for the brains of young children. In February, the Italian researcherspresented evidence that playing fast-paced video games can improve the reading skills of children with dyslexia.
In November 2012, scientists at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston conducted an experiment in which high school gamers, college gamers and medical residents competed to see who could perform better virtual surgery. The players completed a series of tasks on a device that replicated real surgeries and measured skills in 32 different categories, such as hand-eye coordination, pressure on the controls and timing.
In 2010, researchers presented evidence at the American Pain Society’s annual scientific meeting that video games, specifically ones with an emphasis on virtual reality, have proven effective in reducing anxiety or pain caused by medical procedures or chronic illness. The study found that when people undergoing chemotherapy or other serious treatments were immersed in a virtual gaming world, they reported significantly less stress and fear. In addition, those being treated for burn wounds found a decline in their pain ratings by rates of 30 to 50 percent.
According to a University of Rochester study, shooting bad guys in video games can unexpectedly give you better vision.
In 2012, researchers in New Zealand created a novel way to treat depressed teenagerswith “SPARX,” a video game designed to give therapy to kids in a way that was more fun and active than traditional counseling. The acronym stands for “smart, positive, active, realistic and x-factor thoughts,” strategies that have been commonly used to battle depression.
For stroke victims, recovery can be a long or even impossible process. Seeking a more affordable and effective approach to restoring speech and movement after a stroke,Debbie Rand of Tel Aviv University turned to video games.
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