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Video Games boost memory

Mario

It seems that playing 3D video games improves your memory
A new study suggests that playing three-dimensional (3D) video games can stimulate the hippocampus and boost the formation of memories.

The findings suggest that exploration of vast and visually stimulating environments within modern-day 3D video games "can act as a human correlate of environmental enrichment" and "provide meaningful stimulation of the human hippocampus," the researchers write.

"It's often suggested that an active, engaged lifestyle can be a real factor in stemming cognitive aging. While we can't all travel the world on vacation, we can do many other things to keep us cognitively engaged and active. Video games may be a nice, viable route," author Craig Stark, PhD, from the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory, University of California, Irvine (UCI), said in a university statement.

The study was published online December 9 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

In one set of experiments, the researchers tested self-described "video gamers" on a memory task mediated by the hippocampus and found that those who favor complex 3D video games performed better than their peers who favor 2D video games. They note that "even in a highly competitive population of video gamers, those who specialize in a spatially complex 3D video game outperformed those who specialize in a 2D video game on this same metric."

They then discovered that they could induce the memory-boosting effects by training naive video gamers on 3D video games. They recruited nongamer college students to play either a video game with a passive 2D environment (Angry Birds) or one with an intricate 3D environment (Super Mario 3D World) for 30 minutes daily for 2 weeks. Before and after the 2-week period, the students were given standard tests of memory.

Students playing the 3D video game improved their scores on the memory tests, while the 2D gamers did not. Memory performance increased by about 12%, which is about the level of decline people normally experience between ages 45 and 70 years, the researchers say.

Dr Stark explained why complex 3D video games might aid memory. "We know that new neurons are born into the adult brain in a process called adult neurogenesis and that these new neurons end up in only two places. One of those places is the hippocampus, and a popular theory as to what those new neurons are doing there is that they're helping us learn new information," he told Medscape Medical News.

"Give humans this kind of 'environmental enrichment' and give them something to learn and we see this effect in their ability to learn new things that require the hippocampus. We've not got direct evidence of it yet, as the current study looks at behavior — memory ability — and not at the hippocampus or neurogenesis," Dr Stark added.