Playing games gives you a bigger brain

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Mario64

As gamers, we tend to get all riled up when some or other study shows our favourite hobby as something likely to turn us all in to mass murdering psychopaths. We’re much more open to those that say playing videogames is actually good for us. A new one from Berlin says playing games gives you a bigger brain.

The study was  conducted by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Charité University Medicine St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus and was recently published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. It says that playing videogames potentially increases the volume in brain areas responsible for spatial navigation, strategic planning, memory and motor skills.

Playing video games, researchers say, is a "highly pervasive activity, providing a multitude of complex cognitive and motor demands" that "can be seen as an intense training of several skills," and thus perfect for testing the brain’s ability to change structure over time.

They used a fantastic game to test too; Super Mario 64. 23 adults with an average age of 24 were tasked with playing the open-world adventure for at least a half hour every day for two months. Their brain sizes were compared to a control group who played nothing. The results found that those who played the game exhibited significant gray matter increase" in the bits of the brain responsible for memory, spatial navigation, planning and motor skills 0- and that those who were more enthusiastic to play exhibited greater increases.

"While previous studies have shown differences in brain structure of video gamers, the present study can demonstrate the direct causal link between video gaming and a volumetric brain increase. This proves that specific brain regions can be trained by means of video games," said Simone Kühn, senior scientist at the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development

Of course, a sample size of 23 is statistically insignificant, but at least games aren’t being blamed for killing people.

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Last Updated: November 6, 2013

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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