According to new research from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Charité University Medicine St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus (in Leipzig, Germany) playing video games on a regular basis can improve spatial orientation, memory formation, strategic planning, and fine motor skill. This new revelation comes from a study conducted in Berlin using the popular and classic Nintendo 64 platformer Super Mario 64.
In the study researchers asked one group of adults to play the game for 30 minutes a day over a period of two months, Another group of adults – who served as the control group – did not play the game. "Brain volume" of all participants was cataloged using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at the start and end of the study. Researchers found that the Super Mario 64 players showed increases of grey matter, while the control group showed no change.
Changes were observed in the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum – brain regions involved in important functions such as spatial navigation, memory formation, strategic planning and fine motor skills of the hands. Researchers noted that the changes were even more pronounced among participants who reported an eagerness to play the video game.
“While previous studies have shown differences in brain structure of video gamers, the present study can demonstrate the direct causal link between video gaming and a volumetric brain increase. This proves that specific brain regions can be trained by means of video games”, says study leader Simone Kühn, senior scientist at the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.
"Many patients will accept video games more readily than other medical interventions," adds psychiatrist Jürgen Gallinat, co-author of the study at Charité University Medicine St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus.
More studies on this fascinating topic are being planned, according to researchers. A study on the effects of video gaming in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder is currently underway as well.