Tuesday, 24 October, 2017

Could Video Games Increase Your Risk of Dementia?

The stress of continually dodging bullets and rapidly navigating virtual maps leads people to rely on a more instinctive way of learning The stress of continually dodging bullets and rapidly navigating virtual maps leads people to rely on a more instinctive way of learning Getty Images
Marlene Weaver | 09 August, 2017, 00:29

Greg West, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Montreal, was lead author of the study.

Despite both groups playing the same games for the same amount of time, the likes of Call of Duty, Killzone and Borderlands 2 led to atrophy in the hippocampus for response learners. In contrast, playing 3D "platform" games - named for gameplay that involves jumping around on floating platforms - like Super Mario appears to increase grey matter in the hippocampus.

"That's why we chose to do a full neuro-imaging study, scanning the brains of habitual players of action video games and comparing them to non-players, and what we saw was less grey matter in the hippocampus of habitual players".

According to the report, the loss of grey matter as a result of playing action games happens because it stimulates a different part of the brain, the caudate nucleus, more than it does the hippocampus.

"There's evidence that stimulation of the caudate nucleus can directly inhibit the hippocampus, especially under stress", said West, explaining that the caudate nucleus has evolved to work efficiently under pressure, even the self-inflicted stress of a video game.

A new study in Canada from the University of Montreal believes it may have found a link between first person shooters and brain damage. Each participant played for a total of 90 hours.

For this reason, while the researchers caution against excessive playing of action video games, in particular by children, young adults and older adults populations with cognitive issues, they also say the design of first-person shooter and action games could be changed to promote a better balance of brain activity. Response learners can be likened to the twitch gamer who navigates through an environment based on input memory.

Sculpture at Disney World honors Elkhorn-area boy killed by gator
Disney and the Graves family announced in June a sculpture of a lighthouse will soon stand on Disney property to remember Lane. The boy's father, Matt Graves, jumped into the water and unsuccessfully tried to pry his son from the animal .

The participants started out in a virtual central hub, from which they had to navigate down four identical-looking paths and capture specific objects.

Shaped like a seahorse, hence its name, the hippocampus is the part of the brain that helps people to orient themselves (so-called spatial memory) and to remember past experience (episodic memory).

It was found that first-person shooting games reduce grey matter within the hippocampus in participants using non-spatial response strategies. Response learners ignored the landmarks and concentrated instead on remembering a series of right and left turns in a sequence from their starting position.

But that doesn't mean lovers of action games have to give them up completely.

After establishing their learning strategy, the participants began playing the games.

"Action video games designed without in-game Global Positioning System, or (without) wayfinding routes overlaid on the game's display for the player to follow, could better encourage spatial learning during action video game playing".

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