A new study from Canadian researchers revealed that playing video games is not the wisest way of boosting one’s brain power. In fact, those games can hike the risk of developing dementia or schizophrenia in older age.
Lead author Prof. Greg West, who teaches psychology at Université de Montréal, Canada, reported that video game aficionados have less gray matter in the hippocampus than their peers that don’t share the enthusiasm for video gaming.
The research team also found that the less gray matter the hippocampus has, the higher the risk of the person to develop a brain condition that can lead to depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, PTSD, and schizophrenia.
“Video games have been shown to benefit certain cognitive systems in the brain, mainly related to visual attention and short-term memory,”
However, these benefits are outweighed by drawbacks, the Canadian team found, as the hippocampus can be severely affected.
Gaming Can Harm the Brain
In the study, the team scanned the brains of gamers that habitually play action video games and compared the scans to those of non-players. Researchers found less gray matter in gamers’ brains, but they didn’t find causality.
As a follow-up, they conducted two separate longitudinal studies to find whether there was a cause-and-effect between playing video games and a depleted hippocampus. The new research revealed gaming caused the brain changes.
The hippocampus is a seahorse-shaped portion of the human brain that enables us to orient in space and to remember specific things from the past. In technical terms, episodic memory and spatial memory heavily rely on the hippocampus to function normally.
Taxi drivers, for instance, tend to have a sturdier hippocampus as they train their spatial memory on a nearly daily basis. For the rest of the people, more gray matter in that part of the region means a healthier brain.
Image Source: Wikimedia