*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on EurekAlert.
A number of studies have shown how playing video games can lead to structural changes in the brain, including increasing the size of some regions, or to functional changes, such as activating the areas responsible for attention or visual-spatial skills. New research from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) has gone further to show how cognitive changes can take place even years after people stop playing.
This is one of the conclusions from the article published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. The study involved 27 people between the ages of 18 and 40 with and without any kind of experience with video gaming.
“People who were avid gamers before adolescence, despite no longer playing, performed better with the working memory tasks, which require mentally holding and manipulating information to get a result,” said Marc Palaus, who has a Ph.D. from the UOC.
The results show that people without experience of playing video games as a child did not benefit from improvements in processing and inhibiting irrelevant stimuli. Indeed, they were slower than those who had played games as children, which matched what had been seen in earlier studies.
Likewise, “people who played regularly as children performed better from the outset in processing 3D objects, although these differences were mitigated after the period of training in video gaming when both groups showed similar levels,” said Palaus.
The study lasted a month and the researchers analyzed participants’ cognitive skills, including working memory, at three points: before starting the training in video gaming, at the end of the training, and fifteen days later. The video game used was Nintendo’s Super Mario 64.
According to Palaus, “Video games are a perfect recipe for strengthening our cognitive skills, almost without our noticing.” Nonetheless, he stressed that these improvements only have a limited effect on the performance of other activities not linked to video gaming, as is the case with most cognitive training.