Researchers have discovered a link between video games and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, which means knowing the difference between red and green turtle shells now could make all the difference later in life.
In a new study from the University of Montreal, scientists decided to look into the connection between three-dimensional gaming platforms and growth in different areas in the brain among older folks. Specifically, grey matter in the hippocampus, a vital neurological tissue the promotes memory building, and the loss of which is associated with many psychiatric diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Video games have already been proven to increase grey matter in the hippocampus in young adults, after all. Why couldn’t they do the same for those more prone to brain deterioration?
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The scientists took 33 people between the ages of 55 and 75 and split them into three groups: one group to do nothing, one group to learn how to play the piano with a computer program, and one group to play Super Mario 64. At the end of six months, only the video game-playing group showed a significant increase in grey matter in the hippocampus. The group who did nothing showed significant grey matter loss, and the gamers and piano players both showed a growth in grey matter in the cerebellum, which controls motor movements and is also connected to short-term memory.
As a result, the study was able to hypothesize that playing 3D video games can increase grey matter in the brain, improving memory and preventing the effects of aging, like Alzheimer’s. Why? Three-dimensional games force players to be spatially aware and build cognitive maps that they then must remember. It’s a hefty lift for the brain.
It bears noting that the study was tiny, and more research must be done to determine if cognitive games in general can help stave of brain deterioration, or if only video games specifically do the trick. But it’d be pretty cool if all it took to keep our brains healthy was a few hours of whirling around the Mushroom Kingdom with Mario and Luigi. And if you don’t know what that means, you might want to learn soon.