Amongst the wider public, video gamers do not have the best reputation. They are perceived, somewhat unfairly, as socially awkward, somewhat untidy and messy, pimply-faced geeks.
However, amid the controversy around video games, more scientific evidence is emerging that might allow us to view those action-packed computer or Xbox games in a more positive light. In fact, those action video gamers (AVGs) have more gray matter and better connectivity in certain sub-regions of the brain.
Those AVGs were already known to have improved attention skills and eye-hand coordination, and previous research has shown that expert AVGs had more gray matter in the brain, which is often associated with better cognitive function and memory.
Headed by principal investigator Dezhong Yao, the research team, were led to examine brain structure and function among AVGs because of a plethora of previous evidence that showed that expert AVGs had superior cognitive abilities compared to amateurs. For instance, expert AVGs possess better attention skills and eye-hand coordination. Furthermore, it was already known that expert AVGs had more gray matter in various brain regions.
Armed with this prior knowledge, the team used functional MRI to examine the brains of 27 expert AVGs (i.e., action video gamers who were regional or national champions) and 30 amateur AVGs (i.e., noobs), focusing specifically on networks within the insular cortex that are associated with attention and sensorimotor function.
The figure depicts brain pathways with enhanced functional connectivity in expert AVGs compared to amateurs. Note that anterior (green), transitional (yellow) and posterior (red) regions of the brain showed greater connectivity in the experts, particularly in the left hemisphere. Subsequent analysis showed that expert AVGs also had more gray matter in the left insular cortex and central insular sulcus.
Thus, the authors conclude that action video gaming can increase gray matter volume and integration of networks associated with attention and sensorimotor function.
As an after thought, the study is good news for people who play video games for almost 24/7 because it’s all worth it!
via Medical Daily