For centuries, people have played games for all sorts of reasons, most of which are linked to entertaining themselves or passing the time. In the 21st century, however, it is the video game that is played the most to provide entertainment; whether that’s via an online role-playing format, online poker in the U.S. or through a console game. Certain aspects of gaming, however, can have a positive effect on the brain as well as the health and well-being of players. The findings from an increasing amount of research in recent years may come as a surprise.
Developing Skills with Computer Games
Far from alienating and isolating a regular player, online computer games, particularly those that involve role-playing scenarios or joining a popular game in an online casino in the USA, can contribute to socialization and teamwork. In fact, a lot of research and investigation has looked into the benefits of playing online role-playing games, but now researchers are turning to the educational and therapeutic uses of computers and video games. Specifically, studies have revealed that playing video games can develop eye-hand coordination and increase reaction times in younger players with the focus being on spatial visualization ability, which is the ability to mentally “see” and manipulate objects in two and three dimensions.
Most recently, studies have focused on the positive benefits of paying fast-paced, shoot-em-up games; the type of games that are often portrayed negatively in the media. In addition, a relatively new study led by Vikranth Bejjanki, of the Universities of Rochester and Princeton, and Ruyuan Zhang, of the University of Rochester, has investigated how playing these action-based video games can improve overall learning capabilities. The subjects involved in the study demonstrated increased levels of perception, attention and overall cognition in addition to improving the specific skills taught within the game.
Gaming and Pleasure
Playing certain types of games can also have a positive impact on our individual sense of well-being and happiness. Playing roulette online, for example, develops and increases sensations of thrill and risk in a player. However, playing similar types of games can also activate the pleasure circuits in our brains. A study conducted by Stanford University into gameplay shows that certain areas of the brain linked to reward responses can be activated by participating in a game such as roulette, even when no reward is involved. So, you wouldn’t even need to start gambling online in the U.S. to feel this!
In the study, Allan Reiss and his team of researchers performed a series of brain scans on male and female subjects who were asked to play a simple video game. The findings included an increase in activity in the regions of the brain associated with and responsible for activities like visual processing, motor function, sensorimotor integration and visuospatial attention. The most interesting results, however, showed that certain areas of the medial forebrain pleasure circuit, such as the nucleus accumbens, were also activated in the brains of the participants. Of further interest to the research team was the fact that even though both the male and female participants showed activation in these areas, the effect was much stronger in the male participants.
Improving Our Health with Games
Numerous research studies have also been conducted that investigated the impact that playing video games can have on brain health and cognitive function. The ACTIVE study, a 10-year government-funded U.S. study on cognitive training, revealed some of the most significant findings in this field. It was highly indicated in the study that a certain type of gameplay called speed-training could decrease the risk of long-term dementia and Alzheimer’s in older adults by half. Participants played a simple BrainHQ game called Double Decision, and long-term use (5+ years and 10+ years) revealed a 35.6% improvement in brain function and cognitive ability.
Gaming has also been known to develop higher overall levels of efficiency in the brains of regular players. American Psychologist published a paper that revealed playing first-person, action video games reduced the amount of brain activity in research participants when they were required to carry out problem-solving activities.
So, the next time you feel like you should be doing something more beneficial than playing a video game or even playing in a U.S. online casino, step back and think about the ways in which this activity could be helping you. As with anything, it’s important to engage in gaming activities in moderation; never let it take the place of the most important things in your daily life. However, the research shows that gaming can help your brain and that knowledge should no doubt increase your enjoyment of gameplay even more!
Photo is Wikimedia Creative Commons
Contributing Author Bio
Manuela Muroni is Barcelona-based freelance writer, she has been writing professionally since 2008. When she’s not glued to a computer screen she’s most likely playing beach volleyball or painting abstract art.