The research has been mixed on whether video games are good or bad for the brain.
Three recent studies produced results about video games and their effect on the gray matter in the brain that may start to answer this question.
This new research suggests that certain types of games affect people differently depending on their learning style. The research found that people’s navigation strategy had a big impact on the effect of the game on the hippocampus, in some cases leading to a significant reduction in gray matter.
The Importance of the Hippocampus
The hippocampus is a vital structure in the brain. It is important for learning and plays a role in transitioning new information to specific areas of the cortex. The hippocampus also plays a role in the development of new brain cells.
These studies distinguished between two different types of navigation strategies. Response learners memorize a sequence’s left and right turns. Spatial learners rely on various landmarks to orient and navigate through a game.
The first study looked at the effect of action games on the hippocampus. Action games are often promoted as improving visual attention skills. In the first study, the group was divided between individuals who played action video games at least six hours per week and those who played less or not at all.
An interesting side-note: all the study participants were right-handed.
MRI’s were completed to compare the brain structure of the participants. Those who played action games were found to have significant reductions in left hippocampai gray matter compared with the non-video game players.
The Impact of Game Types and Navigation Strategies
The second study looked at non-video game players and the effect action games or 3-D platform games had on the brain. The study included a pre-study MRI and a post-study MRI for all participants. The participants were also categorized depending on their navigation strategy.