Study: Playing action video games can make you smarter

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Does gaming make people smarter?

Although playing video games is a fun hobby for hundreds of millions of people, modern gaming is more than just a recreational activity.

A new joint study from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China and the Australian Macquarie University uncovered something interesting about playing action video games: it can make a person smarter.

The purpose of the study was to gain new insights into a region of the cerebral cortex called the insular cortex. Though that part of the brain has not been studied in depth, it’s thought to be responsible for governing speech, our ability to relate to others and cognition, among other things. In the study, the insular cortexes of 30 infrequent gamers and 27 competitive e-sports players were examined extensively via MRI.

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Researchers found that the pro gamer group had a greater level of functional connectivity and gray matter volume. Because of these two factors, the e-sport players had a greater degree of cognitive function. This means that in addition to being a hobby, gaming can also be a highly effective form of mental exercise.

The Link between Video Games and Aggression

Although being an avid action video game player can help you become more intelligent, not all of the habit’s effects on the mind are positive.

In October, researchers from Dartmouth University published meta-analysis of two dozen studies performed between 2000 and 2017 involving 17,000 participants between the ages of 9 and 19. It indicated that there is a distinct link between playing violent video games and exhibiting aggressive behavior, such as picking fights, in young people.

The meta-analysis was intended to bring some clarity to the long-disputed issue of violent video games provoking violence in the real world. However, the complicated nature of its findings is unlikely to end the controversy. The analysis’s lead author, Jay Hull, described the aggression increasing effect as being, “relatively small, but statistically reliable.”

Gaming is Legitimately Addictive

In addition to being a cognition and aggression booster, gaming was recently determined to be addictive. In June, the United Nation’s World Health Organization announced that the latest version of the International Classification of Disease (ICD) will include gaming disorder.

WHO defines the condition as being one in which an afflicted person’s gaming behavior is so intense that it causes “significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.” Thanks to gaming disorder’s inclusion in the IDC-11, sufferers can be officially diagnosed with the condition. And potential sufferers may have their treatment costs covered by their medical insurance company.

With so much conflicting information coming out about video games recently, only two definitive conclusions can be drawn. One, more research on the psychological and physiological effects of gaming should be conducted. And two, gamers of all ages and interest levels should engage in their favorite pastime responsibly.