Game play involves repeated actions that strengthen the brain cell connections underlying memory and learning. Research on the effects of video games on the brain areas are gaining popularity and video game developers can now use neuroimaging technology in order to gain new insights on their products.
A series of studies have already been conducted with regards to the effects (especially violence) of gaming on people’s brains. Video games can be used to educate through repetition and feedback and according to this interesting infographic (presented below) from Online Universities, they can bring some positive outcomes (improved ability to work in a team, improved problem-solving, improved hand-eye coordination and mental rotation, improved peripheral vision, improved way-finding skills, manage health problems), but they also have some less-positive effects (increased aggressive responses, active suppression of emotional responses, can lead to attention problems and poor school performance).
The areas of the brain that are impacted by games
- Premotor & Parietal Cortex – Games that require real-time action, like ‘Space Invaders’, activate these areas, which control sensory movement.
- Frontal Lobe – One study claimed frequent players can get ‘video game brain’. This means key parts of their frontal lobe become underused, which can alter moods.
- Prefrontal Cortex – Games that require logical thinking, like ‘Othello’ and ‘Tetris’, activate this area, which controls decision making.
- Dorsal Anterior Cingulate Cortex – Immediately after firing a weapon in a video game, players show greater activity in this area, which controls cognition and planning.
- Rostral Anterior Cingulate Cortex & Amygdala – Areas that resolve emotional conflict showed less activity while players fired a weapon and soon afterwards. Studies say players may suppress their emotional response to cope with their violent actions.
Also, video games can produce dopamine (released in the brain’s striatum during video game play) which is involved in learning and feelings of reward. This makes games become addictive, as the players seek feelings of euphoria by playing more and more.
The positive and negative effects of video games
+ Games that require teamwork help develop collaboration skills.
+ Games designed to help children manage health problems like asthma are more effective than doctors’ pamphlets.
+ Improves ability to reason and solve new problems independently of previously acquired knowledge.
+ Can improve peripheral vision, way-finding skills, hand-eye coordination and mental rotation.
- Violent content in games increases aggressive responses.
- Video games play increases active suppression of emotional responses.
- Long-term playing can lead to obesity, attention problems, and poor school performance.
- Increased risk of seizures in people with epilepsy or photosensitivity disorder.
By playing games that involve violence, people get used to this and aggressions seems to become more and more common, without having an emotional impact on them.
The effects of violent video games
- When gamers play frequently, there’s a decrease in prefrontal lobe activity. This can lead to altered moods and aggressive behavior, which can last even after the game is turned off.
- One week of violent game play can lead to lower activation of the left inferior frontal lobe during emotional tasks and also in the anterior cingulate cortex during numerical tasks.
- Those who play high-aggression games are significantly more anxious than those who don’t.
- Playing violent games increases aggressive thoughts, feelings and behaviors in the short and long-term.
Male Gamers vs. Female Gamers
On average, male brains show a much greater activation in the mesocorticolimbic center (associated with reward and addiction) than female brains. This amount correlated directly with how much advancement they made through the game-play.