Study Shows Playing Video Games Really Can Make Your Brain Bigger
Previous research on whether playing video games can make us smarter has been mixed, but a new study demonstrates a very tangible effect of playing video games: Parts of the brain can get bigger.
In particular, playing Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes a day over two months increased adult volunteers' brain volume in their right hippocampus, the right prefrontal cortex, and the cerebellum. These regions in the brain are responsible for memory formation, strategic planning, muscle control, and spatial navigation.
The researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Charite University Medicine St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus measured the volunteers' brains via MRI and compared them with a control group that didn't play video games. They found "significant gray matter increase" among the gamers and theorize that playing video games could be useful to treat brain disorders:
The presented video game training could therefore be used to counteract known risk factors for mental disease such as smaller hippocampus and prefrontal cortex volume in, for example, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and neurodegenerative disease.
While researchers are mixed on whether a bigger brain necessarily means you're smarter, the size of certain areas of the brain can be significant. (Discovery points to Albert Einstein's average-sized brain with the parts connected to mathematical thinking larger than usual.) Increased gray matter has been positively correlated with better memory, and decreased gray matter correlated with things like bipolar disorder and dementia.
Especially interesting in this study: the volunteers who said they enjoyed playing the video games had even higher increased gray matter. (Also, as Kotaku has reported
In any case, this may be just more supporting evidence that playing video games can be beneficial for more than just entertainment
Playing Super Mario induces structural brain plasticity: gray matter changes resulting from training with a commercial video game (Abstract) | Molecular Psychiatry via Quartz
Photo by Tom Newby Photography.