Here Are Certain Lesser Known Facts About Video Games! Time For Parents To Face The Truth

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For a long time, video games were seen as mindless entertainment. Video game players are often stereotyped as lazy slackers who waste hours in a fantasy world. Recent research, however, is redeeming the image of gamers. It turns out that playing video games has many benefits, especially when it comes to the health of your brain. Let’s look at some of the research and explore what they suggest about the benefits of playing certain video games.

Video Games May Slow Down Age-Related Decline in Brain Function

Some studies suggest that playing certain video games may slow down the decline of brain functions in people over 50. This study, conducted at the University of Iowa, had older adults play a game called Road Tour, which challenges the player’s ability to remember information such as vehicle types and road signs.

The game also compels players to use their peripheral vision, which declines naturally as we age. These players were matched against control groups who played crossword puzzles on a computer. Those who played Road Tour for at least ten hours showed a significant improvement in mental processing speed.

Super Mario Causes an Increase of Brain Matter

One of the most interesting and promising studies of video games’ impact on brain volume involved the game Super Mario 64. This study, conducted by the Max Planck Institute in Germany, had participants play this popular video game for thirty minutes per day for two months. A control group did not play any video games.
Results, as measured by an MRI machine, revealed that people who played the game showed an increase in gray matter in several parts of the brain. The areas of the brain that were affected were the cerebellum, right prefrontal cortex and right hippocampus, areas associated with tasks related to motor skills, the formation of memories and spatial navigation.

Video Games to Overcome Depression

In addition to the possible benefits to cognitive functions, video games may have emotional benefits as well. Researchers in New Zealand created a video game that was specifically designed to help teenagers overcome depression. The game is called SPARX, which stands for Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic and X-factor thoughts. The term “x-factor” refers to a combination of traits that gives one leadership qualities.

In the SPARX game, avatars are used to destroy negative thoughts. Players of this game were compared with a control group that received conventional types of counseling. Both groups consisted of teens who had displayed symptoms of depression. The results were quite surprising – while only 26% of the control group was helped by counseling, 44% of the SPARX players recovered from their depression.

Wii Games Used in Physical Therapy

By U.S. Navy photo by Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Juan Pinalez [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Certain types of video games are being used to help people recover from injuries and to improve their range of motion. Game consoles that involve movement detection, such as Xbox 360 Kinect and Nintendo Wii, can help with physical therapy by giving users the opportunity to work on issues such as mobility and hand-eye coordination.

A study conducted by John Hopkins, for example, had such games included in physical therapy sessions. While the researchers were cautious about claiming that the games caused measurable improvements in patients’ abilities, it was clear that patients enjoyed this type of therapy and helped them feel more positive about their rehabilitation.

Starcraft Improves Brain Flexibility

One of the most crucial aspects of intelligence is what brain researchers refer to as brain or cognitive flexibility. Video games such as Starcraft, where players are required to think strategically, may help to increase brain flexibility. A study conducted at Queen Mary University of London and University College found that participants who played Starcraft for 40 hours during a six to eight week period displayed an increased ability to perform tasks requiring cognitive flexibility.

A New Way to Look at Video Games
Until fairly recently, video games were seen as mere entertainment. If anything, research focused on the possible harmful effects on players, such as desensitizing them to violence. Now, however, quite a few studies are showing that video games can have beneficial effects such as increasing brain volume, improving hand-eye coordination and improving cognitive flexibility.

The above are just a few examples of contemporary research on how video games can be used for therapeutic or brain-enhancing purposes. This is causing a change in how researchers are looking at the whole arena of video games. Now that this door has been opened, more research in this field is sure to follow.