Video games linked to better cognitive performance

Children who play video games more than three hours a day perform better in terms of cognitive performance than non-gamers.

A study involving more than 1,800 children between the ages of nine and ten by researchers at the University of Vermont in the United States, is considered the largest investigation of the association between video gamescognition and brain function.

Researchers found that children who played more than 21 hours of video games per week had higher scores for response inhibition and working memory than those who have never played. The item is published in JAMA Network Open.

Lead author Dr Bader Chaarani told Cosmos, “It makes sense that if you think of the brain as a muscle, the more you train it, the better it works.”

Impulse control is thought to be important because it’s linked to substance use in adolescence, while working memory is linked to IQ and language processing, Chaarani says.

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In the study, children performed two tasks inside an MRI scanner. The first was a “stop signal task” measuring impulse control. The task asked children to press a button when the arrows were pointing left or right, but not to press anything when the arrows were pointing up. The second, a working memory task showed children images of faces and tested their recall.

The children were also tested outside of the scanner using oral and verbal tasks.

Contrary to the results of other research, the study found no significant differences between gamers and non-gamers in terms of mental health or behavior.

Chaarani says: “Today, many parents are concerned about the effects of video games on the health and development of their children, and as these games continue to proliferate among young people, it is crucial that we better understand the impact positive and negative that these games can have. have.”

In Australia, 78% of children and teenagers play video games, an average of 106 minutes a day, according to commissioned research by the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association.

In the University of Vermont study, non-video gamers (who spent no hours per week playing games) and gamers (who played more than 21 hours per week) were recruited from a mix of 21 public, private and charter schools across the United States. .

The two groups did not differ in terms of characteristics such as age, BMI or IQ. However, the gamer group had a higher proportion of boys and lower parental income on average.

Research is part of Study on the cognitive development of the adolescent brain, the largest long-term study of children’s brain development and health in the United States. This allows children to be followed over time into early adulthood to see if changes in video game behavior are related to changes in cognitive skills, brain activity, behavior and mental health.

Although the results showed an association between playing video games and higher cognitive performance, the article notes that there is no evidence of causation. This will be the subject of further research, given that the study on cognitive development of the adolescent brain follows children every two years.

Chaarani says they also plan to examine the effect of the video game genre in future work. The current study did not distinguish between the type of video games children played, whether puzzle games, action adventure, sports, simulation, or shooters; or single-player versus multi-player games.

“There are smaller studies indicating that different types of games may involve different areas of the brain, different brain functions…but due to the sample size, we can’t trust them enough,” he says. he.

“For nine- and ten-year-olds, we look at polls done internationally. So, these kids tend to play faster-paced games like action, adventure, and shooting games that give you immediate reward rather than slow-paced games.

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