Although many parents express concern over video game usage among their children, a recent analysis suggests that gaming may have a positive impact on the brain. The findings suggest that video games may strengthen brain regions involved in attention, visual abilities, and fine motor skills. With the increasing number of gamers in the U.S., the analysis is significant for those concerned with the health implications of video games. Many argue, however, that gaming could lead to negative impacts as well, such as addiction and violent behaviors.
According to an analysis published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, brain regions involved in attention are more efficient in video game players compared to the general public. The gamers were better able to focus on demanding tasks for longer periods of time. These findings may indicate that playing video games could improve test-taking abilities among children since school exams require sustained attention on demanding tasks, as reported by a study from the International Journal of Communication.
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience also reports that video games may increase the size and efficiency of areas of the brain controlling visuospatial and motor skills. Visuospatial abilities refer to the processing and interpretation of visual information regarding the location of objects and are essential for developing expertise in math and science. Right hippocampal enlargement was found in regular video game players as well as volunteers immediately following finishing a game. The hippocampus is partly responsible for memory and spatial navigation.
Although the impact of video games on children is of concern to many parents, the average age of gamers has steadily increased over the years to age thirty-five. The increasing age of video game players may have resulted from smartphones. Games are readily available on smartphones and quickly accessed throughout the day. Remember playing Farmville and Candy Crush at the office? Benefits to playing video games have been found in adults as well. As reported in a previous article by Liberty Nation, video games have managed in relieving some military veterans of symptoms associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Despite the many benefits to playing video games, there are negative aspects as well. As reported in the scientific journal Nature, one of the areas of the brain impacted by video games is the left ventral striatum, which is rich in dopamine, a chemical in the brain partly associated with addiction and feelings of reward. Increased volume of the ventral striatum is also characteristic of excessive gamblers. According to the Illinois Institute for Addiction and Recovery, about one in ten youth currently have a video game addiction.
Parents have also expressed concern over whether playing violent video games results in violent behaviors and reduced empathy in children. The establishment media has inflamed these fears when there is little evidence of support. While it is true that playing violent video games may lead to short-term increases in aggression and decreased empathy, there is no evidence of long-term impacts of gaming regarding violent behaviors, according to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology.
Despite the risks of addiction or short-term aggression, gamers may experience a strengthening of attention and visuospatial and fine motor skills. Parents may now feel more confident about the health implications and safety of video games on children. As long as the child is gaming in moderation, video games are a safe and beneficial pastime.