Playing 3D video games for 30 minutes per day may curb memory impairment, a recent study published on December 9 in the Journal of Neuroscience has revealed.
Research was led by Craig Stark, professor of Neurobiology and Behavior at The University of California, Irvine’s School of Biological Sciences.
A group of 69 volunteers, aged between 18 to 22, were selected to be part of a randomized controlled trial, for a period spanning across 10 days.
They had all been considered to be rookie gamers, given the fact that they had little experience playing video games, and none whatsoever involving the ones selected by the researchers.
Some of the participants were required to spend half an hour every day playing “Super Mario 3D World”, other had to use the same amount of time in order to play a two-dimensional version of “Angry Birds”, while the rest weren’t assigned to any type of game.
In advance of this trial and after the study period had elapsed, scientists assessed the functionality of each individual’s hippocampus, a brain area positioned in the medial temporal lobe, which plays a vital role in spatial orientation and in the creation of long-term memories.
More precisely, as part of the memory functionality assessment, subjects were first presented with a set of images showing various objects, and asked to examine them carefully, so as to recall them afterwards.
Subsequently, researchers showed them a larger group of photos, including the ones they had seen earlier, as well as others that were either marginally different, or extremely dissimilar from the initial ones.
They asked participants to place each photo into a separate group, based on whether the objects had been part of the first set or entirely new.
At the end of the trial, it was determined that those who had played the 3D game experienced a statistically significant boost in their memory capacity.
More precisely, their ability to identify correctly the everyday items which they had studied earlier was around 12% more elevated than that measured among their counterparts.
One possible explanation is the fact that video games, especially in 3D, tend to be highly immersive, intricately designed and even educational, engaging the user and improving the ability of exploring one’s surroundings effectively.
As researchers point out, the capacity of storing and retrieving information usually decreases by about the same percentage of 12%, from the age of 45 until the age of 70.
Therefore, this suggests that playing 3D video games may be beneficial in offsetting the cognitive decline normally associated with growing older.
In fact, according to Dr. Brian Primack, associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Division of General Internal Medicine, this may mean that people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia could also experience positive results when including this type of entertaining routine as part of their therapy.
On the other hand, this trial does have certain shortcomings, such as the relatively low number of subjects, as well as the fact that results may not remain as promising if the test were to be conducted on older individuals, or on people with higher levels of gaming experience.
As explained by Dr. Adam Gazzaley, professor of neurology, physiology and psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco rewards may be highest among rookie gamers, because of the novelty element of this type of activity.
On the other hand, it would be possible to maintain this positive effect by constantly making the video game more intellectually stimulating and demanding, so as to remain challenging even when the player’s level of skill rises.
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