DO VIDEO GAMES CHANGE THE BRAIN?
Do video games affect behaviour?
Video games are likely able to affect the way we behave in a number of ways. For instance, there’s concern about whether violence in games makes young people more violent. It’s not uncommon for news outlets to blame games every time a crime happens, but how true is that claim?
This is controversial even within the scientific community. Yes, exposure to violence seems to affect the brain, but studies have also found that we’re good at distinguishing between real and virtual violence, and aggressive behaviour is better explained by other, mainly socio-economic factors. Numerous studies about the effects of games on the brain had been published, but all that information had not been put together until now.
How did you review the research?
We gathered all scientific articles to date and compared results. In total, we found 116 experiments, the first from the 1980s. Many compared regular video game players with people who had never played; others trained people in a game for several weeks and studied its effects. Changes in the brain were measured using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or electroencephalography (EEG), which detect whether brain regions increase or reduce in size, and how it affects their activity.
Are games bad for the brain?
The clearest negative impact is the risk of abuse and addiction by people with predisposing personality traits. Video games can affect the reward circuits, containing the pleasure centres of the brain. This in turn could affect other brain functions in the frontal lobe, possibly affecting the capacity for planning, inhibiting distractions and mental problem-solving.
Games that heavily rely on online multiplayer modes are the most associated with addiction, due to social interactions being more rewarding than just playing against the computer.
Can games be good for you?
Since video games usually display increasing levels of difficulty, they are continually challenging our skills, making the brain perform at 100 per cent of its capacity, resulting in effective cognitive training.
Various mental functions seem to benefit from this effect. Of these, attention is the most studied, and its enhancement allows us to better process
Do video games change the brain? Different studies have reached different conclusions, so Marc Palaus, a neuroscientist at Spain’s Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, reviewed the research “VIDEO GAMES ARE CONTINUALLY CHALLENGING OUR SKILLS, MAKING THE BRAIN PERFORM AT 100 PER CENT OF ITS CAPACITY”
ABOVE: Do computer games make you more violent, or just more cleverer?