A comprehensive research analysis was published earlier this summer on scientific journal Frontiers. The study is titled “Neural Basis of Video Gaming: A Systematic Review.” The study correlated data from over 100 different video game studies on how gaming affects our brains.
Over 300 published video game studies were analyzed through MEDLINE and Web of Science, with the earliest relevant studies from 1992. The 306 studies were narrowed down to include only those that focused on neural correlates.
Most video game studies tend to focus on the negative effects, namely violence and addiction. Of the 116 studies that were used, 33% focused on video game addiction, while only 14% focused on violence. Only 19% studied structural changes in the brain.
The total sample size among all studies was nearly 4,000 participants. But there’s no way of knowing if multiple people volunteered for multiple studies, and a few studies declined to include sample size. It should be noted that most studies only sampled adolescent or young adult males, as well.
Different brain activities as well as actual changes in physical brain matter were studied. Most studies were done by comparing those who played games and those who didn’t, but it gets particularly interesting when different genres were used.
Those who played action video games improved their selective attention compared to those who played role-playing, puzzle, and strategy games. It’s even possible to achieve long-lasting improvements after only a single game-playing session.
Documented training periods for gaming vary greatly. Improvements to verbal memory spans, problem solving and reasoning, and memory improvements were noted using different games and genres.
The study concludes that gaming improves visuospatial skills, attention and optimization, and memory. At the same time many games can be highly addictive due to their built-in reward systems, sometimes creating a pathological need that’s been compared to gambling.
If you’re interested in learning more about how gaming affects our brains and increases our skills, I highly recommend reading the works of Dr. Daphne Bavelier. She is frequently cited in these studies. She also presented a popular TED talk about gaming’s affect on our brains in 2012.