Video games are widely debated in the psychological community for their addictiveness, violence, and tendencies for players to be anti-social. New studies, however, are indicating that certain types of video games actually promote healthy brain growth and can increase both intelligence and brain function.


Dr. Brian Glass and Professor Brad Love, scientists from Queen Mary University of London and University College London, conducted a study to test cognitive flexibility — “a person’s ability to adapt, and switch between tasks, and think about multiple ideas at a given time to solve problems.” The study involved two groups of volunteers who were trained to play a real-time, fast-paced strategy game called StarCraft, while a third group played a life simulation game called The Sims, which does not require memory of strategy.


After playing for 40 hours over the course of eight weeks, it was determined that those who had played StarCraft were quicker and more accurate in completing cognitive flexibility tasks than those who played The Sims. “Real-time strategy games can promote our ability to think on the fly and learn from our past mistakes. Cognitive flexibility, a cornerstone of human intelligence, is not a static trait but can be trained and improved,” said Glass.


(Flickr/Jared Lindsay)

(Flickr/Jared Lindsay)

Another study conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Charite University Medicine in Berlin showed that video games could help treat patients with mental health problems, such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s, that have altered or reduced the size of certain regions of the brain.


In the Berlin study, it was uncovered that playing video games can stimulate the growth of new neurons and connectivity in the brain regions responsible for spatial orientation, memory, strategic planning, and fine motor skills. The results were even more pronounced in those who were more interested in playing the video game.


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