It comes without a doubt that video games have been an important part to some players and are considered a common means of entertainment nowadays. In fact, the average age of gamers is estimated to be 35 in 2016.
With the growing advancement in technology and AI there is also an evident exposure to video games. Some prefer the traditional PC/console gaming equipment, while the newest generations are leaning towards mobile gaming.
But the real question is this: Do video games have an effect on our brain ?
In trying to answer the above question, this brief essay will examine and collect scientific studies to back up the argument surrounding these issues at hand.
Decades ago, video games have been the favorite pastime for many teens and even adults, and numerous sensationalist campaigns have been made about it. From video games causing violent behavior in kids, to addiction problems, and isolation, and reducing social skills, a lot of claims were thrown at the gaming industry without proper scientific evidence.
For that reason, scientists have gathered and summarized studies about how video games affect the brain and cause behavioral changes. Arguably, they come to the realization that games alter certain brain regions that are responsible for attention and visuospatial competence. Moreover, researchers have also digged deeper in their studies and concluded that some brain regions are associated with the reward system and how it leads to video game addiction.
In an attempt to back these claims with scientific evidence, the author of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience Marc Palaus undertook a case study that involves 116 collected results from scientific studies, some of them focused on the structural changes in the brain. Meanwhile a set of 100 studies are focused on brain functionality and behavioral changes.
Admittedly, the study shows that playing video games does alter the performance of our brain and its structure. While this may seem concerning, it’s not all that alarming because some studies found that gamers who play video games consistently show an obvious improvement in terms of their attention span, such as sustained attention and selective attention. Certain brain regions involved with our attention are stimulated more efficiently and require less activation thanks to playing video games.
Moreover, there are other studies showcasing how video games increase the size and effectiveness of brain regions associated with our visuospatial competence. For instance, the right side of the brain the hippocampus was amplified in loyal video game fans and volunteers following a video game training program.
It is equally important to mention the addictive nature of video games too. Scientifically, this type of addiction is referred to as “Internet Gaming Disorder”. Neuroscientists have investigated this disorder and found functional and structural alterations within the neural reward system in game addicts. These people were exposed to gaming cues that stimulate yearning and keep track of their neural responses. Consequently, the observers found that the neural changes are corresponding to those seen in other addictive disorders.
What does all of this mean? Palaus claims that not all of these findings are translated to real-life changes. Hence some of these changes are not even visible to the naked eye nor does it have a physical presence. The research about the effects of video games on the brain is still in its early development.