It’s true. Online gaming can make you smarter, but only in certain ways. Justin Williams Laser takes a look at the link between online game playing and intelligence.
When you talk about “online gaming,” most people would probably have an idea in their minds of teens playing Minecraft or Grand Theft Auto in their parents’ basement, but there’s so much more about gaming most people don’t know about. That, according to recent studies, is the ability to make you smarter. “Everyone seems to have their own opinion,” Justin Williams says. “However, studies show what they show, and you can’t argue with that.”
For example, he references a research project done by Marc Palaus and his colleagues in 2016 and published in Frontiers. This team researched the results of 116 scientific studies which looked at structural changes in the brain and how the brain functions and behaves during video games. The goal of this research was to understand the relationship between the use of video games and how they correlate with certain parts of the brain, “taking into account all the variety of cognitive factors that they encompass.”
The study starts off by explaining that it was possible to link skill acquisition rates with certain cerebral structures. It found that “. . . several brain regions are key in this regard, mainly the dlPFC, striatum, SMA, premotor area, and cerebellum. Moreover, models of whole-brain activation patterns can also be used as an efficient tool for predicting skill acquisition.”
Justin Williams Laser goes on to mention the results were conclusive and showed that video games absolutely can affect our cognitive and working functions, how our brains perform, and even how the brain is structured. Some video gamers, he noted, showed improved function in several types of attention, such as sustained attention or selective attention, as well as improvements in peripheral visual attention. The study notes that the part of the brain used and involved in attention were more efficient in gamers even though several pathways were being used.
An in-depth look at visuospatial skills were also a part of this study which looked at visuomotor task performance. Optimization of these skills is usually detected by functional neuroimaging studies and show up as decreased activation in their respective pathways. This makes sense as repeated exposure to repetitive tasks would eventually require less cortical resources as the skill is being learned.
Justin Williams Laser points out that this research looked at much more than just cognitive abilities and behavioral effects. It also studied the relationship between violent video games and brain function and behavior. One of the more interesting finds, and not surprising, was that there was reduced functional connectivity within certain parts of the brain after playing a violent video game. This makes total sense, since it is the limbic system, he explains, that is primarily responsible for protecting us by temporarily desensitizing us and down-playing our reaction to negative emotions.
The conclusion, Justin Williams Laser explains, is that the brain is absolutely affected by online game playing. “This study was just a small part of what’s to come for the future,” he adds.