North East Connected

Can playing games online stimulate your brain?

You may well be aware of the benefits that video games are bringing to the North East, with a strong and fast-growing gaming cluster that includes almost 50 specialist companies. However, the advantages go much deeper than that, all the way down to improving your brain power.

The massive gaming industry, which now includes more than 1.2 billion gamers worldwide, is often accused in the media of producing negative impacts such as an increased propensity for violence. However, despite more than 30 years of research, there is still no scientific evidence for this. The closest that scientists have come so far is a study that assessed only a four per cent increase in levels of aggression following the playing of violent games. 

What scientists are discovering is that games can increase a person’s mental abilities, and one Berlin study even found that they can actually grow your brain. During the study, subjects spent two months playing Super Mario 64 DS, after which it was found that three areas of their brains had increased in size. These were the prefrontal cortex, the right hippocampus and the cerebellum, all of which play a role in a person’s navigation and fine motor control.

Another study at the University of Toronto tested whether playing games such as Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed had any impact on a person’s sensorimotor skills, which assist with tasks such as typing, learning to ride a bike or even performing surgery. In the experiment, participants were given a manual tracking task using a computer mouse, and the result was that the gamers were able to carry it out much better than the non-gamers. “This is likely due to the gamers’ superior ability in learning a novel sensorimotor pattern, that is, their gaming experience enabled them to learn better than the non-gamers,” said Davood Gozli, a graduate student who led the study.

The conclusion of the study is supported by Mark Griffiths, who is currently the Professor of Gambling Studies at Nottingham Trent University and the Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He said that “there is now a wealth of research which shows that video games can be put to educational and therapeutic uses as well as many studies which reveal how playing video games can improve reaction times and hand-eye coordination.”

The advantages apply across all forms of gaming, even online gambling. The next time that you’re enjoying one of your 50 free spins with no deposit casino, you can take comfort in knowing that there is more than money at stake. You could also be boosting your brain power. 

For a long time, video games have been used in an educational capacity, from programmes that teach people a new language to flight simulators that help train pilots. It is now becoming clear that all games, even those that are designed purely for entertainment, have some benefit. “Their interactivity can stimulate learning, allowing individuals to experience novelty, curiosity and challenge,” Dr Griffiths said. One study even found that children who play video games after chemotherapy require fewer painkillers. 

If you’re determined to boost your brain power, then there are a vast number of games specifically created for this purpose. However, it is increasingly likely that you don’t need to search for such a targeted solution. Instead, you can simply sit down with your favourite game, no matter what that is, and enjoy some of the most fun brain-training that mankind has ever invented.


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