Brain Benefits from Video Gaming

September 24, 2010

Research shows that avid gamers experience a reorganization of the brain's functions.

Tell your young, male mental health patients to get inside and get some stale air; it’ll be good for them. OK, so maybe that’s a huge stretch, but researchers from the Centre for Vision Research at York University in Canada haveshown that playing video games for hours on end could help young men not only in playing the games but also in performing other tasks that require visuomotor skills, say laparoscopic surgery, through reorganization of the brain’s cortical network.

For the study, 13 men in their twenties who had played video games at least 4 hours per week for the previous 3 years and 13 young men without such experiences underwent functional MRIs (fMRIs) and asked to complete a series of visuomotor tasks that increased in difficultly.

"By using high resolution brain imaging (fMRI), we were able to actually measure which brain areas were activated at a given time during the experiment," said Lauren Sergio, associate professor, Faculty of Health, York University. "We tested how the skills learned from video game experience can transfer over to new tasks, rather than just looking at brain activity while the subject plays a video game."

During these tasks, fMRI showed that non-gamers relied mostly on the parietal cortex, while experience gamers exhibited increased activity in the prefrontal cortex. This finding, said the authors, offers hope for future research into Alzheimer’s disease, as using visuomotor skills appears to allow a reorganization of how the brain functions and Alzheimer’s patients typically struggle with even the simplest visuomotor tasks.

According to lead author, Joshua Granek, “it would be interesting to study if the brain pattern changes are affected by the type of video games a player has used and the actual total number or hours he has played, and to study female video gamers, whose brain patterns in earlier studies were different than those of males.”

More on the health effects of gaming:

  • Violent Video Games Cause an Increase in Aggression Long after the Game has Been Turned Off
  • Video Games: Racing, Shooting and Zapping Your Way to Better Visual Skills
  • How Video Games Affect Health
  • The Good and Bad Effects of Video Games