It turns out your mother was wrong in saying video games rot your brain. New research from Queen Mary University and University College London gives weight to what kids around the world have been saying since Atari and Nintendo first arrived in living rooms: video games can actually make you smarter.
The study focused on neuroplasticity: the brain’s ability to adapt to changing stimuli. Those with neuroplastic brains quickly learn new tasks and form synaptic pathways. The more neuroplastic the brain, the “younger” the mind.
The research teams, led by Dr. Brian Glass, took two groups of non-gamers. One group played a fast-paced, real-time strategy game called, Starcraft. The other group played a slower-paced, life simulation game called The Sims. Both groups of non-gamers took a test measuring their cognitive abilities, logged 40 hours playing their respective games, then took another similar cognitive test.
Those who played Starcraft, which requires the player command multiple units during a real-time battle scenario, showed marked improvements on the second cognitive test. This result suggests video games requiring the player process of various stimuli and make quick decisions increase brain plasticity. It would seem, according to the study, video games can be used to “exercise” a brain. In other words, playing games like Starcraft keeps your brain young.
The group which played The Sims, however, did not show any marked improvement. Researchers believe The Sims, because of its leisurely pace and lack of quick information-processing, does not train the brain to be neuroplastic . On the other hand, Sims players showed no decrease in cognitive ability; either way mom was wrong. Video games most certainly do not rot the brain.