Study Finds Playing Video Games Enhances Brain Activity And Improves This Critical Skill

Kid playing a video game
Video games sometime get a bad rap. Politicians like to link them to real world violence, despite studies suggesting otherwise, and you have heard growing up that too much gaming will rot your brain. Will it really, though? A new study claims playing video games has the exact opposite effect, leading to enhanced activity in certain regions of the brain. We can hear the collective cheers from kids everywhere (again).

Researchers at Georgia State University took on the task of researching the effects gaming has on the brain. In a study published at ScienceDirect, they state in the abstract that games provide "a cognitively engaging, sensory rich environment that can lead to cognitive benefits in those who play frequently." What they don't know is exactly how playing games achieves these cognitive benefits, only that they supposedly do.

Gaming effects on the brain (diagram)
Source: ScienceDirect

"In a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment, we examined the behavioral and brain responses of video game- players (VGP) and non-video game-players (NVGP) during decision-making tasks. In behavioral response, VGP were overall faster by approximately 190 ms and more accurate by 2% than NVGP," the researchers state in their paper.

"In brain response, comparing percent signal changes in commonly activated brain regions between groups, we found that video gamers had increased task-related signal changes in the right lingual gyrus, right supplementary motor area (SMA), and left thalamus associated with improved behavioral response," the paper adds.

The researchers examined 47 participants, including 28 deemed to be video game players and 19 who didn't meet the criteria. Those who fit into the VGP group were ones who indicated playing video games for at least five hours per week for the past two years. Only certain game genres were considered, including first person shooters, real-time strategy, multiplayer online battle arena, and battle royale.

Using a series fMRI tests, the study's authors concluded that people who play games are more accurate and faster in decision making than those who don't. They also found that the VGP group had increased activity in brain regions for visuomotor processing, and increased direct network activities to the SMA and the thalamus, and brain

"These results indicate that video game playing potentially enhances several of the subprocesses for sensation, perception and mapping to action to improve decision-making skills. These findings begin to illuminate how video game playing alter the brain in order to improve task performance and their potential implications for increasing task specific activity," the authors wrote.

You can check out the study for the full rundown.