A recent study looked at how some styles of video games affect the brain of those who play them. The study suggests that some of the video games our children and young adults may be habitually playing could be injuring their brains.

Good Game Gone Bad

There has been a thought that video games may help improve visual attention and short-term memory, and has been used in treatment plans to this affect in patients with ADD/ADHD, and various neurocognitive deficits. This may be true, for some types of games, but others may cause atrophy to an area of the brain called the hippocampus.

Habitual Action Game Players Lose the Most Where it Matters, Grey Matter, that is

The study revealed that habitual players of action video games show a loss of grey matter in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is an area of the brain associated with episodic and spatial memory. As the hippocampus degenerates, an individuals risk for developing brain illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, PTSD, and Alzheimer’s disease increases. The reason why the hippocampus may degenerate while playing these action video games is because most people preferentially use other parts of their brains while playing these types of games.

Details of the Study

The study included 100 individuals (51 men, 46 women). They all played a variety of popular first person shooter games, as well as 3D games from the Super Mario series for a total of 90 hours. Individuals were then determined to be “spatial learners” (learners who favored the hippocampus) or “response learners” (those who use a reward system, favoring another region of the brain called the caudate nucleus). Individuals who are response learners seem to favor a more “autopilot” style of game play, where they perform actions based on sequence and outcome, rather than remembering the actual layout of the various scenes and levels of the game.

+1 for 3D Games, -1 Action Games

It was found that those individuals who were response learners had markedly hippocampal atrophy after 90 hours of play of the action games. Interesting however, all participants showed increased activity in the hippocampus from playing 3D games.

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Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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