Children worldwide are often told to limit video gaming, with parents claiming it will rot their young impressionable minds.
Well kids, make some room on the couch for grandpa; scientists just found out that defeating Bowser saves more than just Princess Peach. Playing video games, it seems, can help build grey matter in the brain even as we age. This grey matter is important for memory.
In Brain Science, Grey Matter “Matters”
Grey matter is a component of the central nervous system. It’s present in the brain, the brain stem, and the spinal cord. Brain cells and synapses are part of grey matter, in addition to many other tools for cognition. Reduced grey matter is connected to memory problems, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers at the University of Montreal recently completed a study of the effect of playing 3D video games on the grey matter of older people.
Over a six month period, a group of 33 people between the ages of 55 and 75 were divided into three groups for the study. Group A was instructed to spend 30 minutes a day, five days a week playing Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo Wii. Group B was given piano lessons for the same duration. The last group was given no specific task.
3D Video Games Bulk Up The Brain
The video game group showed significant grey matter improvement in the hippocampus brain region.
“3-D video games engage the hippocampus into creating a cognitive map, or a mental representation, of the virtual environment that the brain is exploring,” Professor Gregory West, of the University of Montreal, said. Cognitive tests were performed on the participants as well, and it appears that the increased hippocampal grey matter improved short-term memory and other cognitive functions.
The study also noted that a similar test was done on 20-year old participants which gave similar results.
It seems that, rather than wasting your brain away, gaming has the potential to stimulate and grow young and old minds alike.