Discover How Video Games Affect the Brain

Video games have always been the go-to activity for entertainment. But now many academic institutions have been incorporating gaming as part of their curriculum to help young people learn concepts in a fun way.

With millions of hours played each week, video games affect the brain in many ways that many people don’t notice. Which can go on to affect their health or their relationships with other people. 

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The popularity of video games as a means of escaping reality may affect how our brains are wired. In this article, we will learn more about how video games affect the brain, the benefits and negative effects of video games, and more.

  • Learning the Effects of Video Games on the Brain
  • Video Games Increase Brain Volume
  • The Debate Between Video Games and Aggression
  • Better Coping and Social Skills
  • Improving Mental Health Through Play
  • The Potential Downside to Playing Video Games
Discover How Video Games Affect the Brain
Image Source: NPR

Learning the Effects of Video Games on the Brain

Video games have always been controversial when it comes to how they affect the brain and the learning process as a whole. 

Discover How Video Games Affect the Brain
Image Source: WIRED

In previous years, people believed that video games did not have any beneficial effects on the learning process of a human being. 

However, the positive effects of video game playing on learning have come to light in recent years, thanks to widespread research on the matter.

Video gaming continues to be a hotly debated topic when it comes to how it affects the brain. In this article, we’ll further dive into the effects of the brain, including both negative and positive effects.

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Improving Visual Acuity

Studies showed that people who play action-oriented video games are more likely to notice visual cues. A person who plays video games has high levels of visual attention and has been trained to do so with the type of games that they play. 

It is even known that people who play video games fair better at performing visual-related tasks than those who do not play. First-person shooter games like Halo and Counterstrike require fast responses to visual cues. 

Games like these need players to divide their attention to different visual information. The study also showed that people who were trained with these kinds of video games developed the same visual acuity as the people who have played the games.

Video Games Increase Brain Volume

A study from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Charité University Medicine St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus showed that playing video games has significantly increased brain volume

Discover How Video Games Affect the Brain
Image Source: WIRED

It was shown that playing video games, specifically strategy games, increased brain volume. There was a significant increase in the brain’s gray matter. An increase in gray matter was found in the right hippocampus. 

The right hippocampus controls emotions, senses such as smell and sound, as well as memories. This means that people who play a lot of strategy video games have better memories and are far more in touch with their emotions and senses. 

It was also found that people with high volumes of gray matter were also good at organizing their thoughts and storing their memories. This is the reason why many gamers often remember a lot of in-game information and can then organize it to form key strategies in games of this type.

A Phenomenon Called Internet Gaming Disorder

It is also discovered that video games can also become very addicting. This phenomenon is called internet gaming disorder

People with this kind of addiction associate playing video games with pleasure and cravings. This can also be found in people with other addictive disorders. 

It is thought that video games have a profound effect that alters the reward system in the brain hence the development of addictive disorders.

The Debate Between Video Games and Aggression

Video games have always been the center of debate when it comes to aggression. Video games are often blamed as the cause for bullying and even to the point that it pushes an adolescent to commit crimes such as school shootings.

Discover How Video Games Affect the Brain
Image Source: Scientific American

In some studies published by the journal Review of General Psychology, it indicates that there is some evidence that playing video games makes adolescents more aggressive. 

Teens who have issues with anger control, violent tendencies, are easily depressed or upset, have little to no concern for others, and often break rules are more prone to aggression than teens who are not. 

However, other studies have pointed out that video game content is not to be blamed with regards to such an outbreak of aggression but towards the feelings of failure and frustration.

Improving Dexterity through Video Games

Many professions greatly benefit from playing video games, such as the role of a surgeon. In a study involving a group of surgeons, researchers discovered that surgeons who played video games were able to perform procedures faster and more accurately than their counterparts. 

They also made 37 percent fewer mistakes than those who didn’t play video games. It is thought that video games, especially those that use controllers, promote hand-eye coordination, allow for better dexterity and control, which is highly beneficial for the surgical profession.

There are even special games that use physical therapy to help stroke patients to recover and gain control of their hands and wrists.

Better Coping and Social Skills

Gamers have always been saddled with the stereotype of being shy people who resort to video games to have some sense of social interaction

Discover How Video Games Affect the Brain
Image Source: Mental Floss

On the contrary, research has shown that children who play video games are more likely to have better social skills and develop better interpersonal relationships than those that didn’t. 

That’s because games that incorporate social interaction, such as massively-multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), often have social features and other collaborative endeavors that allow them to improve their social skills. 

It is even indicated that those who play these kinds of games have better communication skills, thus helping them improve their social skills as well.

Become a Better Problem Solver with Video Games

Many of today’s video games involve a lot of complex puzzles, intricate strategies, multi-level missions with complicated mechanics which take a lot of time to solve. 

Most of the time, the solution comes from the player’s actions and can have certain impacts or consequences within the game. This allows players to learn how to think on their feet and strategize according to the result of their choices. 

This skill translates well in the real world as people begin to consider all the possible solutions as well as their corresponding consequences. Such skill enables a person who plays video games to become better problem solvers. This is why it is often best to start playing strategy-based games while you are still young.

Improving Mental Health Through Play

Mental health has been a hot topic for some time now. As mentioned above, there is no connection between playing video games and the breakdown of the human psyche.

Discover How Video Games Affect the Brain
Image Source: Parents

It is even debunked that playing video games can cause people to be violent. 

Video games can offer an escape from a traumatic incident and can even prove to be very therapeutic for many people. Some video games today are even used in therapy.

A recent study has shown that video games can boost mental health and the mood of a person. 

The Short-Term and Long-Term Benefits

Video games offer a wide range of both short and long-term benefits. Short-term benefits include improved mood and better self-esteem, while many long-term benefits are realized when playing video games is started at a young age. 

One study showed that kids that played cognitive-training games for a month had improved cognitive and neurological functions. This long-term benefit affects how the brain processes new information. 

If you enjoy playing brain-teasing games go ahead and play them with your child to help improve their cognitive skills. Try different video games to help you train different cognitive functions, such as puzzle games and strategy-heavy games.

The Potential Downside to Playing Video Games

With so many potential benefits and effects on the brain, there are bound to be some downsides to playing video games. There is a study that suggests playing video games might lead to increased impulsiveness.

Discover How Video Games Affect the Brain
Image Source: Psychology Today

Excessive playing of video games can lead to problematic behaviors which can affect the person’s interpersonal relationships. 

This is why many researchers continue to conduct research and would advise that playing in moderation is still optimal to produce the highly positive benefits of playing video games while avoiding the downsides.

Testing How Video Games Affect Your Brain

The best way to understand how your brain is affected while playing video games is to test it. First, take a few online reaction tests before you play an action-oriented game. 

After playing the game, retake those tests and compare your level of performance. Make sure to keep all conditions similar such as the device used in playing. 

You can control the variables present in such a test to get a baseline understanding of how games affect your brain.

Conclusion

Playing video games can lead to various benefits, including improved reaction time, better cognitive functions, and even mental flexibility. It can even reduce stress levels and promote better self-esteem. Keep in mind that different games offer different benefits, so it is best to explore them to see which ones can help.

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