Video Gaming May Boost Better Cognitive Performance in Children
WASHINGTON — A study of nearly 2,000 children found that those who said they played video games for three hours or more a day performed better on cognitive skills tests involving impulse control and working memory than their non-game playing counterparts.
The study was published Tuesday in JAMA Network Open.
It analyzed data from the ongoing Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, which is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and other entities of the National Institutes of Health.
“This study adds to our growing understanding of the associations between playing video games and brain development,” said NIDA Director Nora Volkow, M.D.
“Numerous studies have linked video gaming to behavior and mental health problems. This study suggests that there may also be cognitive benefits associated with this popular pastime, which are worthy of further investigation,” Volkow said.
Although a number of studies have investigated the relationship between video gaming and cognitive behavior, the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the associations are not well understood.
The researchers found that the children who reported playing video games for three or more hours per day were faster and more accurate on both cognitive tasks than those who never played.
They also observed that the differences in cognitive function observed between the two groups was accompanied by differences in brain activity.
Functional MRI brain imaging analyses found that children who played video games for three or more hours per day showed higher brain activity in regions of the brain associated with attention and memory than did those who never played.
At the same time, those children who played at least three hours of video games per day showed more brain activity in frontal brain regions that are associated with more cognitively demanding tasks and less brain activity in brain regions related to vision.
The researchers think these patterns may stem from practicing tasks related to impulse control and memory while playing video games, which can be cognitively demanding, and that these changes may lead to improved performance on related tasks.
However, they stress that this cross-sectional study does not allow for cause-and-effect analyses, and that it could be that children who are good at these types of cognitive tasks may choose to play video games.
The authors also emphasize that their findings do not mean that children should spend unlimited time on their computers, mobile phones or TVs, and that the outcomes likely depend largely on the specific activities children engage in.