Brain On Games

Montreal researchers find 1st causal link between shooter games, loss of grey matter.

Playing first-person shooter video games could put certain users at greater risk of developing neuropsychiatric illnesses such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease, concludes a new study by two Montreal researchers that comes out Tuesday in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Gregory West, an associate professor of psychology at the Université de Montréal, says the neuroimaging study is the first to find conclusive evidence of grey matter loss in a key part of the brain as a direct result of computer interaction.

“A few studies have been published that show video games could have a positive impact on the brain, namely positive associations between action video games, first-person shooter games, and visual tension and motor control skills,” West told CBC News

The neuroimaging study’s participants were all healthy 18 to 30 year olds with no history of playing video games.

Brain scans conducted on the participants before and after the experiment looked for differences in the hippocampus between players who favour spatial memory strategies and so-called response learners — that is, players whose way of navigating a game favours a part of the brain called the caudate nucleus, which helps us to form habits.

The study says 85 per cent of gamers who play six or more hours a week have been shown to rely more heavily on this brain structure to find their way in a game.

After 90 hours of playing first-person shooter games such as Call of DutyKillzoneMedal of Honor and Borderlands 2, the brain scans of response learners showed what West said is “statistically significant” grey matter loss in the hippocampus.​

 

Photo Credit: Brain On Games

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