Whch video games destroy our brain!

Faith Castro
August 8, 2017

Researchers scanned the brains of 97 volunteers before and after 90 hours of gaming.

The research, published today in Molecular Psychiatry, looks at the impact of "action video games" on the brain.

"We then followed that up with two studies to establish causality, and we found that it was indeed the gaming that led to changes in the brain". Meanwhile, the Super Mario games showed higher levels of grey matter in their brains, which is vital for aspects such as muscle control, memory, emotions and sensory perception.

Previous studies have shown that hippocampus depletion puts a person at risk of developing brain illnesses and diseases ranging from depression to schizophrenia, Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Alzheimer's disease.

Many of those who played action games, such as Call of Duty or Killzone, saw their hippocampus shrink.

However, there's another important part of the brain called the striatum that counterbalances the hippocampus.

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"There's evidence that stimulation of the caudate nucleus can directly inhibit the hippocampus, especially under stress", said West, explaining that the caudate nucleus has evolved to work efficiently under pressure, even the self-inflicted stress of a video game. The inverse relationship between these two areas means the more the caudate nucleus expands through overuse, the more the hippocampus loses cells. This adversely affects the hippocampus because as the amount of grey matter increases in the caudate nucleus, it decreases in the hippocampus.

Researchers from University of Montreal (UdeM) in Canada found that habitual players of action games have less grey matter in their hippocampus, a major part of the brain that is responsible for orientation and for recalling past experience. Exactly why this happens isn't fully understood, but it has something to do with learning styles. The caudate nucleus also helps us form habits and remember how to do things like ride a bicycle.

To establish which participants were spatial versus response, West and his team asked them each to virtually run through maze on their computer.

Once their learning strategy was established, participants then began playing the action and 3-D-platform video games. Response learners can be likened to the twitch gamer who navigates through an environment based on input memory. And that same subgroup that tested as response learners showed a distinct loss in hippocampal grey matter, similar to results from habitual action gamers.

London cabbies who have learned The Knowledge have an enlarged hippocampus because they use their spatial awareness so often. And in the "Super Mario" group, both response learners and spatial learners responded positively to the 3D platform games, increasing their hippocampal grey matter.

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