The Neuroscience Behind Video-Game Addiction

“Does any current neuroscience investigate whether and how different kinds of games affect the brain? Do different games affect their brains differently?”
The Experts | posted by Randy Kulman, Ph.D.
Minecraft video game, representing ADHD video game addiction and neuroscience

There is no question that playing video games affects the brain. In existing studies, neuroscientists have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRIs) to see how video games can change the structure of the brain. And the results show that video games can improve brain-based skills and help kids with ADHD.

Researchers Daphne Bavelier and Shawn Green have demonstrated that playing action-based video games can improve processing speed. Torkel Klingberg has shown that consistent use of adaptive video games improves working memory skills and alters brain structure.

Increases in grey matter in the right hippocampus, the cerebellum, and right prefrontal cortex were observed in a study of adults playing Super Mario Bros. Another study demonstrated that playing Tetris resulted in a larger cortex and increased brain efficiency.

StarCraft, an action game, can lead to improved brain flexibility and problem solving. Playing Rayman Raving Rabbids can improve reading in children ages 7 to 13. Brain-training video games change brain functioning and slow the degree of mental decay in the elderly. All of these findings are well documented.

However, just as with virtually anything else in the world, too much of a good thing is bad for you. If you drink too much juice, eat too much fruit, or spend too much of your time jogging, there will be negative effects. Helping your child to have a balance of physical, social, unstructured, creative, and digital play, what I call a healthy “Play Diet,” is vital. With video games, playing between 60 to 90 minutes a day appears to benefit kids the most.

Photo by Flickr user Post Apocalyptic Research Institute

 
 
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