Could video games be good for the brain? Researchers from the Max Plank Institute for Human Development and Charité University Medicine St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus have found that playing video games can increase the volume of grey matter in the brain. This result could lead to alternative interventions for psychiatric disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Alzheimer’s, and others.

The Berlin-based research team assessed two groups of adults: one that played a video game and one that did not. The game-playing group played the game Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes daily over the course of two months. Both groups underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) so that the research team could quantify the participants’ grey matter.

After two months of game play, the results showed an increase in the volume of grey matter in the brains of those who played the video game. The gamers’ brains exhibited the effects of neuroplasticity in the right hippocampus (responsible for memory consolidation), the right prefrontal cortex (involved in executive function and strategic planning), and the cerebellum (in charge of motor control). They also observed a correlation between desire to play the game and increased plasticity. They gained grey matter volume relative to how much they reportedly wanted to play.

This research suggests that there may be alternatives to traditional interventions available to people living with disorders that affect the size of the brain like PTSD or schizophrenia. Additionally, it will probably be easier to get people interested in video game-based interventions.

“While previous studies have shown differences in brain structure of video gamers, the present study can demonstrate the direct causal link between video gaming and a volumetric brain increase. This proves that specific brain regions can be trained by means of video games.” Explained study leader Simone Kühn, senior scientist at the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute.

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