A New Study is Linking Video Games to Brain Damage

When I grew up, we had Atari 2600, and the highlight of the game lineup was Pacman, Ms. Pacman, and Donkey Kong. So, I must definitely admit that today’s gaming systems have come a long way, and the games that kids and adults can play on them are pretty extraordinary. In fact, gaming has become one of the worlds most embraced pastimes for kids and adults — having developed its own culture.

Who hasn’t joked with their kid by telling them that they are going to get brain damage by playing that X-box so much? Well, as it turns out, there is new pragmatic and empirical scientific evidence that links video games to brain damage. There is a paper of molecularpsychiatry published by two tenured professors at the Universite de Montreal and McGill University. The paper reveals that there is a direct link between first-person shooters in video games and the loss of gray matter in the hippocampus. This finding is significant because the hippocampus is the part of the brain in which short-term memories or experiences are converted into long-term memories. Additionally, this part of the Brain is responsible for spatial navigation.

The research conducted was carried out over fours years using a combination of randomization and targeted sampling methods to build the unit of analysis (the samples to be studied). The professors, Doctors Veronique Bohbot and Gregory West, took lead on the project, recruiting random men between the ages of 18-30 who never played video games and subsequently followed them through four years of testing.

The test subjectsweresplit into two groups, those who use the caudatenucleus (the part of the brain responsible for forming habits to navigate, and those who use their spatial memory. Those within the sample group who played video games for more than six hours per week experienced an increase in activity in the caudate nucleus,while simultaneously experiencing a corresponding decrease in “hippocampal” matter.

Basically, what all of this means is that playing video games places the brain in the precarious position of converting the spatial presentations in the virtual worlds of video games into habits instead of long-term memories, reducing the capacity and size of the hippocampus — creating a deficiency in long-term memory.

In addition to an increase in the difficulty associated with converting short-term memories into long term memories, the reduction in hippocampal matter places an individual at a greater risk of developing PTSD or depression during their younger years, and it increases the risk of developing certain forms of dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease as a person ages.

Additionally, the damage incurred by gaming increases in direct correspondence with the time spent playing video games.

Because first-person shooter games are mapped on a small and simple spatial concept, creating the concept of identifying the best shooting position and accessing them as soon as possible, it tends to put the “gamer’s” learning processes on autopilot using a navigating process that depends on habit rather than spatial navigation can cause permanent damage to the brain.
The study also proved that when people are able to utilize both learning tendencies there was statistically significant hippocampal growth, revealing that platform type games could be used to assist in the rehabilitation those suffering from brain damage.

 

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