Playing 3D Video Games Boosts Memory Formation, Study finds

A new study is here to counter the ancient myths about the worst, playing of video games has for you. Healthy memory, problem solving skills and learning abilities are parts of the benefits you stand to derive from playing games, provided that they run on virtual 3D environments.

Researchers from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) assembled non-gamer college students to play video games, in their quest to ascertain the effects of games on memory formation. The students were to play video games (either Super Mario 3D World, which features virtual 3D environments, or Angry Birds, running on simple 2D environment) for 30 minutes each day, and for a period of two weeks.

The participants were asked to follow a routine designed to engage the brain’s hippocampus: performing object-recognition memory tests before and after the game-playing sessions.

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The researchers noticed that the memory performance of the students who played 3D video games increased considerable  by about 12 percent, which is the same amount it normally decreases between the ages of 45 and 70. While no effect was noticed among those on 2D games.

“First, the 3-D games have a few things the 2-D ones do not,” said Craig Stark, professor of neurobiology & behavior at UCI. “They’ve got a lot more spatial information in there to explore. Second, they’re much more complex, with a lot more information to learn. Either way, we know this kind of learning and memory not only stimulates but requires the hippocampus.”

“It’s not certain whether the overall amount of information and complexity in the 3D game or the spatial relationships and exploration is stimulating the hippocampus,” Stark added. “This is one question we’re following up on.”

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Findings are published in the Journal of Neuroscience, and supported by the National Institute on Aging (grant R01-AG034613) and the James S. McDonnell Foundation (grant 624748). The studies are not just focusing on measuring the stimulus contemporary gamer get, but hopefully to be used one day by scientists to reverse the cognitive deficits among people with dementia.

Photo credit: UCI

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