Recent studies focused on the benefits of playing video games revealed how long-term gaming increases brain size and connectivity in the brain regions responsible for spatial orientation, fine motor skills, memory formation and strategic planning after quantifying the volume using the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) technology.
Specifically, the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex, and the cerebellum were found to have profoundly increased in size through years of gaming.
And these findings are not the only ones demonstrating the positive effects of video gaming. Let’s have a deeper look.
Psychological Benefits of Video Games
Since the birth of the digital age, digital masterminds and game developers have gifted us with video games to keep us occupied and entertained for hours on end. But aside from that, it was also found that playing video games have long-term effects on our psychological behavior.
Today, as hardware advances, video games are becoming more and more realistic. This, in turn, fuels a need for gamers to continue to buy ever better hardware to play said games. Gamers learned how to build their own PC and thus, with their epic new rigs, the PC Master Race was born.
Ahem… that’s to say, the growing body of research through the years suggests that playing video games is actually beneficial after all. And here are some of the surprising psychological and physiological benefits of playing video games:
Higher Cognitive Function and Better Memory Recall
The University of California Irvine conducted a study in 2015 revealing how playing 3D video games boost memory formation.
The test participants were divided into 3 groups. One group played Super Mario 3D World while the second played Angry Birds. The last group didn’t play anything at all.
A follow-up memory test then revealed that both the Angry Birds group and the Super Mario 3D World group– after being exposed to a 3D virtual environment for just over 2 weeks– were found to have been stimulating their brain better than the group that didn’t play any games at all in a way that translates to higher cognitive functioning and increased memory recall.
Relieves and Reduces Pain
A 2010 research study was conducted and presented by scientists at the American Pain Society’s conference showed how endorphins, pain-killing hormones, are released when playing video games and how it effectively overcomes pain.
Individuals who play video games, especially 3D games, showed strong signs of pain reduction. And since playing video games focuses your attention on the game, you put your mind off the pain you feel.
Motivates You to Physically Perform
The introduction of VR dance games like Dance Central has demanded more and more players to become physically active. Not only do these games let the player experience a whole new immersive experience, but they also get physically involved in the game.
In fact, participants in recent research conducted by Stanford University’s Virtual Human interaction lab felt they are more confident knowing they can get in shape through exercise and at the same time enjoy playing on a VR headset.
Reduction of Anxiety and Stress
It was also revealed from an article published by PubMed Central (PMC) that playing video games actually reduces stress. It was found that children who played handheld video games just moments before surgery felt little to no anxiety.
How this works is similar to how video games relieve and reduce pain, where a player’s mental focus is shifted on to the game they’re playing.
The Connection Between Video Gaming and Your Brain Size
Playing video games– even for just 2 weeks– showed how it could promote a higher cognitive function and better memory recall in individuals, as described above.
But playing video games for many years has even more surprising benefits to our brain, which was revealed after MRI scans were performed on lifelong gamers.
Right Prefrontal Cortex
Individuals who play games like Super Mario 64 require pre-planning and attention to detail because objects in the game can be used to complete the level. Because of this, long-term exposure to games has been linked to increased grey matter in the right prefrontal cortex.
The right prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain where cognitive planning, decision making, and social behavior happens. Oh, it’s also considered to be the home of your personality.
The Right Hippocampus
Individuals playing video games like Super Mario 64 for years were found to have more pronounced neuroplasticity and neurogenesis growth. On top of that, it also promotes a higher consciousness and intelligence.
Since games like these require spatial navigation, motor skills, memory formation, strategic planning, and fine motor skills of the hand, it’s no wonder that dedicated games had this part of their brains developed.
Fine motor skills and muscle memory is essential when playing video games. Aside from developing good hand-eye coordination when playing video games compared to non-gamers, you also improve your cerebellum long-term.
Similar to the 2 parts mentioned above, it was also revealed from an MRI scan that the cerebellum had increased in size from playing video games. Surprisingly, it was also found that dedicated gamers who had a strong desire to beat a game have a more pronounced cerebellum compared to the average gamer.
What Does This Mean for Current Gamers?
It looks tempting but this doesn’t mean you have to play games for hours on end. But of course, with moderation, you can definitely play for (almost) as long as you wish.
Do you play video games? How long have you been playing now? Tell us your gaming experience down the comments!