Tech

Video games shown to improve children’s cognitive and memory skills in new US study


Parents often worry about the harmful effects of video games on their children, from mental health and social problems to missing out on exercise.

But a large new US study published in JAMA Network Open on Monday indicates that there may also be cognitive benefits associated with the popular pastime.

Lead author Bader Chaarani, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont, told AFP he was naturally drawn to the topic as a keen gamer with expertise in neuroimaging. .

Previous research has focused on adverse effects, linking gaming with depression and increased aggression.

However, these studies were limited by the relatively small number of participants, especially those involving brain imaging, Charaani said.

For the new study, Chaarani and colleagues analyzed data from the large and ongoing Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

They looked at survey responses, cognitive test results and brain imaging from about 2,000 nine- and ten-year-olds, divided into two groups: those who never played the game and those who played the game since three or more hours per day.

This threshold was chosen because it exceeds the American Academy of Pediatrics’ device time guideline of one or two hours of video games for older children.

Shock and memory

Each group was evaluated in two tasks.

The first involved seeing arrows pointing left or right, with the children being asked to click left or right as quickly as they could.

They were also asked not to press anything if they saw a “stop” signal, to measure how well they could control their impulses.

In the second task, they were shown people’s faces, and then asked if a subsequent picture shown later matched, in a test of their working memory.

After using statistical methods to control for variables that could bias the results, such as parental income, IQ scores, and mental health symptoms, the team found that those who Video players performed better on both tasks consistently.

As they performed the tasks, the children’s brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Video players’ brains showed more activity in regions associated with attention and memory.

The authors conclude in their paper: “The results raise the intriguing possibility that playing video games can provide a cognitive training experience with measurable neurocognitive effects “.

It’s currently unknown whether better cognitive performance drives more gaming or is a result of it, Chaarani said.

The team hopes to get clearer answers as the study continues, and they revisit similar children at an older age.

This will also help rule out other potential factors at play such as the child’s home environment, exercise, and sleep quality.

Future studies could also benefit from knowing what kind of games kids are playing – although by age 10 kids tend to prefer action games like Fortnite or Assassin’s Creed.

“Of course, too much screen time is bad for mental health and overall physical performance,” says Chaarani.

But he said the results show that video games can make a better use of screen time than watching videos on YouTube, which has no discernible cognitive effect.


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