A study in the “Journal of Neuroscience” has good news for forgetful people, according to the University of California at Irvine. It turns out that playing 3D video games, even for a week, can improve your memory quite a lot.

The study appeared in the December 9 issue of the “Journal of Neuroscience.” UCI researchers Craig Stark and Dane Clemenson recruited non-gamers to play either a 2D or a 3D video game every day for two weeks. The 2D game was Angry Birds and the 3D game was Super Mario World.

At the beginning of the two-week play period, the participants were shown a set of objects. Then they played the games. At the end they were shown slightly altered versions of the same objects and asked to categorize them. The test was designed to affect the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with complex learning and memory.

Students who played the 3D Mario game saw their memory scores improve about 12%. Students who played the 2D game didn’t see an improvement.

Stark explained that 3D games are complex and filled with information. So it makes sense that playing them would engage the hippocampus. It’s unclear, though, whether it’s the amount of information in 3D games or the spatial relationships and exploring that stimulates the hippocampus. It’s also possible that 3D games are effective at improving memory because they “more clocely parallel natural experience.”

Next up for Stark and his colleagues is to compare “environmental enrichment” in real life vs. 3D video games. The Dana Foundation is funding the study.

But until those results are in, it seems like it might be an excellent idea to play more Mario.


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Linda learned to play video games as a way to connect with her teenaged kids, and then she learned to love video games for their own sake. At Pixelkin she wrangles the business & management side of things, writes posts as often as she can, reaches out on the social media, and does the occasional panel or talk. She lives in Seattle, where she writes, studies, plays video games, spends time with her family, consumes vast quantities of science fiction, and looks after her small cockapoo. She loves to hear from people out there. You can read more about her at her website, Linda Breneman.com or her family foundation's website, ludusproject.org.