Playing video games can actually boost brainpower. And all these years we have been accusing videos games of our kids’ academic failure! Our intentions are not to prove you wrong, but to enlighten you on the positive impact on video games on every student.
The Queen Mary University of London and University College London (UCL) jointly conducted a research program inviting 72 volunteers to measure their ‘cognitive flexibility’ (an ability to adapt and switch between tasks and think about multiple ideas at a given time to solve problems). During this period, analysts observed that certain types of video games can help the brain to become agile and improve strategic thinking.
There are many research studies like this that manifest various advantages of playing video games. Here are a few of the benefits mentioned:
- Gives a boost to self-confidence
A study carried out by Stanford University tried to read the minds of the gamers. Their test results revealed that when we play video games, two regions of the brain are hyper-activated – one is the region that is mostly associated with motivation and goal-orientation (often known as ‘the reward pathways’) and the second one is the region that is associated with learning and memory (the hippocampus). When you play games, you are immediately focused on winning it. Whether it’s to solve a puzzle, find hidden treasure, reach a finish line or beat the other players in the game, the determination to achieve the goal increases our attention and creates a sense of motivation.
- Increases our ability to learn new motor skills
The University of Toronto study dug up an interesting fact that people who play action video games such Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed are likely to develop a new sensorimotor skill (such as learning to ride bike or typing which often requires a new pattern of coordination between vision and motor skills) more quickly than non-gamers. Researchers commented, in the early stage of the experiment, the performance of gamers was not significantly better than the non-gamers. But at the end of the test, all participants performed better as if they had mastered the complex pattern of the target.
- Makes you undergo a good learning experience
Level 1 of any game is easy. Gamers figure out the rules, examine different strategies and mold their skills as per the requirements in a few first levels, and immediately the learning process kicks in. Significantly, as the player succeeds and advances to next levels, it gets tougher. Hence, students need to keep learning and improving their skills. This experience of watching yourself getting better every time you play the game is perhaps the signature pleasure of playing games. As long as the games throw you new challenges and give the chance to keep improving, your hippocampus will be engaged.
- Rise in the grey matter
A research study conducted by German scientists found that the group who had been playing ‘Super Mario 64’ for 30 minutes a day over a period of two months had a rise in grey matter in the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum – the areas responsible for memory formation, spatial navigation, fine motor skills in the hands and strategic planning. Now it is evident, a specific region of the brain can be trained by means of video games. Researchers concluded by stating that video games could potentially be used as a therapy for patients with mental disorders.
- Stops aging of the brain
University of Iowa study discovered that playing brain-teasing games slow the level of mental decaying associated with the natural aging process. The study was carried out on 681 healthy individuals who were in their 50s or older. And the conclusion drawn out of the result was playing specially designated video games for 10 hours enables you to stall the natural decline of different cognitive skills. The reason is when you do something that needs mental energy, you put your abilities to the test. It is like more you exercise your muscles, the more they get strong and ages less.
- Fastens the reading speed
Italian researchers, associated with the University of Pandua, throw light on the idea that playing fast-paced video games can actually help children with dyslexia improve reading skills. The study was conducted on two groups, one played a high action game called ‘Rayman Raving Rabids’ and other group played a slower tempo game. When children have tested afterward, the group that played high tempo game were reading faster than the other group. As the kids have increased attention span which is crucial to reading, they are capable of reading more and fast.
- Helps you become determined than ever before
Have you ever failed 10 times a row at Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga level? Many have. But they have not accepted their defeat. They are ready to give it one more shot. This is called ‘determination’. When you are determined to do something, nothing can stop you. And researchers say, playing video games can instigate that determination in you. This is something to do with distinct neurological activation pattern. To players, the tendency to keep trying, again and again, can seem irrational. But it is the same behavior you would expect from someone who is completely focused on the goal and gain confidence to learn and get better.
- Fights depression
In this age, modern researchers found the evidence that many depressed players are actually using video games as self-medication. They experience a dramatic sense of relief from symptoms while playing. But if you play with an ‘escapist’ mindset – that is to ignore your problems, to avoid unpleasant emotions, block confronting stressful thoughts, you are likely to get into more trouble. On the contrary, researchers have found that playing games have the opposite of escapism. Playing to get better at something actually relieves you from stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Improves your multitasking skills
The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has taken an initiative to create the specialized video game that may help older people to ace multitasking. The purpose of this game is to boost participants’ mental strength to handle multiple tasks at once. The video game called NeuroRacer asks the player to two things simultaneously. A player needs to use the joystick to guide a car on a twisted road, and at the same time, a series of signs appear on the screen. The player needs to hit the button when a particular type of sign appears on the screen. The players are scored as per their promptness and accuracy with the task. As the level advances, it gets more challenging. Results show that older people can improve their multitasking skills through video gaming.
- Become a faster and efficient decision maker
According to Medicaldaily.com, researchers have demonstrated that action games like Halo, has shown a significant impact on students’ humans’ decision-making skills. In addition, recent studies show real-time strategy games can promote our ability to think and learn from the past mistakes. The experiment was conducted in three groups, which consisted of 72 volunteers. Two groups were asked to play different versions of Starcraft and the third group played The Sims, a passive life simulation game with no clear strategic element in it. Results show that participants, playing Starcraft demonstrated higher mental celerity than those, who played The Sims.
- Develop surgical skills
Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston conducted an experiment on a group of high school games, college gamers and medical residents. The purpose of performing the research was to see who could perform a better a virtual surgery. The players were asked to complete a series of tasks on a device that is used in surgery. They were assessed on 32 different categories such as hand-eye coordination, performing under pressure, sense of time, etc. In the end, school sophomores, who played the game two hours a day, performed better compared to college gamers and medical residents.
- Say goodbye to pain
At American Pain Society annual scientific meeting, the researchers spoke about how video games especially the virtual ones affect in reducing anxiety and pain caused by medical procedures or chronic illness. The study demonstrated people, undergoing chemotherapy or other physical struggles, who were immersed in the gaming world, tend to feel less stressful. In addition, those being treated for burn wounds were seen experiencing less pain by 30 to 50 percent. The main reason behind it was that video gaming lets you engage all your senses in focusing the task given in the games, rather than thinking about the pain. Gaming also releases endorphin in the brain that is responsible for happiness and capable of numbing discomfort.
So mothers, next time you see your kid Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii, let them be there for a while. It is not a ‘time-waster’ after all.
Note: But if your child is always glued to the computer, advice him or her to do something else, like studying or taking a brisk walk because there always should be a balance between gaming and other work.
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