Numerous studies have already shown that playing video games leads to structural changes in the brain. Some of these changes include an increase in the size of some regions or functional changes like activating areas responsible for visual-spatial skills and attention.
Today, new research from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) has shown how cognitive changes happen in children who play video games, which benefits them later in life.
According to Marc Palaus, Ph.D., those who were avid gamers before adolescence performs better at working memory tasks despite not being able to play for many years.
The study, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, included ten sessions of transcranial stimulation, which involved 27 participants from ages 18 to 40 with or without experience in playing video games.
Their study shows that people without experience playing video games as a child tend to be slower than those who had played video games as children as they did not benefit from improvements in processing and inhibiting irrelevant stimuli.
At the same time, people who had the experience of playing videos as children perform better in processing 3D objects. However, these differences were reduced after some training of video gaming in which the two groups showed similar levels, Palaus said.
Video Gaming and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
The researchers analyzed the cognitive skills, such as their working memory at three points of the study: before the video game training, at the end of the training, and fifteen days after the training ended. They used Nintendo's Super Mario 64 in their study.
Additionally, the researchers conducted ten sessions of transcranial magnetic stimulation, which is a non-invasive procedure performed through the skin without getting any brain tissue that temporarily changes the brain activity.
Palaus explained that the brain stimulation involves magnetic waves in which, when applied to the surface of the skull, can produce electrical currents in underlying neural populations.
The procedure aims to determine if adding it to the video gaming training would improve the cognitive performance of the participants. But, that did not happen.
Palaus said that the effect of the stimulation could last from milliseconds up to ten minutes under normal circumstances, but the effect of their study lasted longer than this.
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Improving Cognitive Skills
The video game was used as a 3D platform adventure in the study, which contains various genres of video game that influences cognitive functions differently.
The common factor in these genres is that they all make the participants want to continue playing and gradually increase the level of difficulty by presenting a constant challenge, Palaus said.
According to him, those two factors make the video game an attractive and motivating activity that requires continuous and intense use of the resources of the brain.
Video games are perfect for strengthening the cognitive skills of a person, almost without noticing it. Palaus emphasized that these cognitive changes only have a limited effect on the performance of other activities that do not involve or are linked to video gaming, like most cases of cognitive training.
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