Children playing video games can improve working memory years later


A number of studies have shown how playing with video games may result in structural changes in the brain, including increasing the size of some regions, or to functional alterations, such as activating the areas responsible for focus or visual-spatial abilities.

This is one of the decisions from the article published in Frontiers in Human Illness . The study involved 27 people between the ages of 18 and 40 with and with no sort of experience with video gaming.

“People who were avid gamers before adolescence, despite no longer playing, performed better with the working memory tasks, which require mentally holding and manipulating information to get a result,” said Marc Palaus, who has a PhD from the UOC.

The article stems from Palaus’ doctoral thesis, which was supervised By Elena Muñoz and Diego Redolar, researchers in the UOC Faculty of Health Sciences’ Cognitive NeuroLab. They had been co-authors of the article together with Raquel Viejo, another researcher by the group.

The results show that people without experience of playing video games as a child didn’t gain from improvements in processing and inhibiting irrelevant stimuli. Truly, they had been slower than those who had played games as children, which matched what had been seen in earlier studies.

Likewise, “people who played regularly as children performed better from the outset in processing 3D objects, although these differences were mitigated after the period of training in video gaming, when both groups showed similar levels,” said Palaus.

The study lasted a month and the researchers analyzed participants’ cognitive skills, such as working memory, at three points: before starting the training in video gaming, at the close of the practice, and fifteen days after. The movie game utilized was Nintendo’s Super Mario 64.

The study also included 10 sessions of transcranial magnetic stimulation. This is noninvasive brain stimulation through the skin without the need to get to the brain tissue which temporarily changes the mind activity.

“It uses magnetic waves which, when applied to the surface of the skull, are able to produce electrical currents in underlying neural populations and modify their activity,” explained Palaus.

The investigators wanted to learn if combining video gaming and this type of stimulation would improve cognitive performance, but didn’t prove to be the case. There are a range of potential causes, including the experimental nature of the parameters to the stimulation.

“We aimed to achieve lasting changes. Under normal circumstances, the effects of this stimulation can last from milliseconds to tens of minutes. We wanted to achieve improved performance of certain brain functions that lasted longer than this,” said Palaus.

Strengthening cognitive abilities

In this case, the game utilized was a 3D platform Experience, but there are many genres of video game that could influence cognitive capabilities differently.

In accordance with Palaus, what many have in common is that they involve elements that make people want to continue playing, which they gradually get harder and pose a constant struggle. “These two things are enough to make it an attractive and motivating activity, which, in turn, requires constant and intense use of our brain’s resources.”

“Video games are a perfect recipe for strengthening our cognitive skills, almost without our noticing.” Nonetheless, he emphasized that activities not linked to video gaming, as is the case with most cognitive instruction.

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Categories: Entertainment Life