This is an excerpt from The Psychology of Gaming: New Frontiers, co-authored by Tim Rains, Editor-in-Chief of Psychology of Games.
Why do video games affect the brain?
Why do video games affect the brain?
Are video games good for you? Can video games really make you smarter?
Are video games addictive? Does everyone play video games?
What are video games good for? Should we limit their use?
This is a fantastic question. As a psychologist, I'm not a video game developer, but as an amateur gamer, I've always wanted to answer it.
Let's dive in.
What do we know about video games?
Several studies have linked video games to cognitive enhancement, but not all of them.
Many studies show that using video games increases reaction time and memory. This is a good thing, as it helps people with ADD or ADHD.
Recently, cognitive benefits of playing video games were discovered in people with normal memory, such as people who are younger than 40 and typically play video games with children their own age.
Research on the long-term effects of video games is scarce, but some studies have shown that people who play more games are smarter, especially when they're young.
More recently, research suggests that playing the computer version of Go helps people's cognitive skills.
That's a game played by more than 10 million people worldwide, so it makes sense that it would have some cognitive benefits.
The UpWorth Gaming TV and Film App and the Mind Games Games App are great places to check out games, books, movies, and even TV shows that have a cognitive benefit.
What do we know about the brain?
Our brains are complex systems that are constantly evolving. We can't really predict the long-term effects of using video games.
While some people find that they feel more confident and improve their focus, other people feel like video games make them lazy and lose interest.
There's also no way to know if video games affect how the brain works. That's a tricky question because it involves measuring all of the kinds of brain processes.
The number of different brain processes is so large that there is no clear-cut answer to that question.
Still, the evidence that video games might have some cognitive benefits is growing.
Research has shown that playing video games regularly has positive effects on memory, reaction time, language learning, and spatial awareness.
Playing a video game can even improve your mood.
It's also been shown that playing video games regularly increases grey matter in the brain.
Grey matter is an important part of your brain that helps to process information and process information as it travels through the brain.
Some research has shown that the way a person interacts with a video game is similar to the way they engage with real life.
That's important because real life is where we learn to interact with our environment and deal with the people around us.
How do video games affect the brain?
A 2015 study found that playing video games improves reaction time. It was the first time a video game has been shown to improve reaction time.
It's important to note that the study measured reaction time not the speed of reaction time.
The results actually suggest that reaction time improved faster with longer games.
A 2017 study found that playing an average of 15 hours per week of first-person shooter games was associated with greater grey matter in several brain regions including those associated with reaction time, emotional learning, social cognition, and cognitive flexibility.
This study also found that players who spent the most time playing games like Overwatch and Counter-Strike increased gray matter in specific regions of the brain associated with the perception of time.
In other words, gamers' brains responded to time differently, and that meant they had a better ability to multitask.
A study that focused on video games and memory also found a link between video game playing and improving memory.
The authors note that the results are preliminary, and they didn't analyze whether the video games used in the study improved memory or whether those playing the video games were already better at remembering.
The study only looked at reaction time and didn't take into account any other mental or physical activity.
Other research has looked at other types of games
A 2011 study found that game playing has many different effects on the brain. For example, game players had increased blood flow in parts of the brain that help them to process information and make decisions.
Other studies have found that playing video games reduces the levels of stress and anxiety in people with bipolar disorder. It also improves symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Many studies have found that people with autism have increased brain volume.
Video games have also been shown to help people with schizophrenia and schizophrenia-like symptoms.
It's not entirely clear whether video games directly cause changes in brain structure or whether that change is simply a side effect of playing video games.
And one recent study suggests that playing a single hour of video games a day can improve the memory of people with Alzheimer's.
Video games have also been linked with reductions in depression and increases in life satisfaction.
A 2017 study found that playing video games improved emotional well-being in men and women, and it increased life satisfaction in people of all ages. The effects lasted a full month.
Some research has shown that video games can help treat a variety of chronic conditions, including obesity, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
One 2013 study found that video games that are tailored to improve mental health can reduce loneliness and increase social support.
The same study found that a video game that helped people relax reduced symptoms of depression.
Many studies have also linked video games with improvements in intelligence.
Some research has found that playing games, even video games that aren't a major part of the game, improves intelligence.