Playing violent video games may be bad for the brain

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Playing violent video games may be bad for the brain

"There's evidence that stimulation of the caudate nucleus can directly inhibit the hippocampus, especially under stress", said West, explaining that the caudate nucleus has evolved to work efficiently under pressure, even the self-inflicted stress of a video game.

The latest study's lead author Dr Greg West, of the University of Montreal, said: 'Video games have been shown to benefit certain cognitive systems in the brain, mainly related to visual attention and short-term memory.

So are video games bad or good for the brain? That's why we made a decision to do a full neuro-imaging study, scanning the brains of habitual players and comparing them to non-players, and what we saw was less grey matter in the hippocampus of habitual players. It was found that habitual action video game players had significantly less grey matter in their hippocampus and used response strategies at a higher rate.

"We saw less grey matter in the hippocampus of habitual players".

Action games with on-screen maps to aid navigation did most harm. Beware, it can reduce episodic memory and spatial navigation, and increase the risk of developing brain disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, researchers have warned.

Neuroscientists should think twice before getting patients to play video games as a way to boost their brain power, a new study conducted at Université de Montréal suggests. Why?

"Action video games designed without in-game Global Positioning System, or (without) wayfinding routes overlaid on the game's display for the player to follow, could better encourage spatial learning during action video game playing". A new study found such approaches are turning gamers into responsive spatial learners.

In their current state, first-person shooters easily allow players "to navigate with a response-route-following strategy without relying on the relationships between landmarks, fundamental to the spatial strategy". After playing the games for a total of 90 hours, the gamers who played the first-person shooters showed a strong bias toward response learning on the maze test.

To establish which participants were spatial learners (that is, those who favoured their hippocampus) versus "response learners" (those using the reward system), West and his team first had each of them run through a "4-on-8" virtual maze on their computer. This is associated with less gray matter in the hippocampus. Response learners can be likened to the twitch gamer who navigates through an environment based on input memory. They had to navigate four identical-looking paths to capture objects, then, after their gates were removed, go down the four others.

They caused the most damage to the hippocampus - the part of the brain responsible for orientation and memory. And that was true both for people who had been gaming regularly for years and for people who trained on action video games for just 90 hours.

Response learners ignored the landmarks and focused on memorizing the sequence of a series of right and left turns from the starting position.

Playing 3D games for the same amount of time, however, increased gray matter in the hippocampal memory system of all participants. Action games that don't have overlaid maps prod players to remember relationships between landmarks and thus encourage spatial learning.

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