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How Are Games Able to Pump the Human Brain?

A large group of studies of computer games is devoted to the study of their effect on human cognitive development: on memory, attention, thinking, and intellectual functions in general. There are conflicting studies. The general idea that computer games spoil the brain is at the level of public consciousness and is not entirely consistent with research data.

The study of computer games from the point of view of cognitive development

Its begins very early in the history of psychology. The first experimental work dates back to the 1980s and 1990s and is related to the study of spatial abilities. Spatial thinking (in the English version - spatial thinking) is a whole group of human abilities associated with orientation in three-dimensional spaces, in transferring three-dimensional spaces to two-dimensional ones.

For example, when we need to orient ourselves on the map: the map is flat, and the city surrounding us is quite three-dimensional. Research shows that the spatial abilities of computer game players develop. It is with computer games that the ongoing decrease in gender differences in spatial abilities between men and women is often associated. It is believed that women are less oriented in space than men. Associated with this are a lot of anecdotes about how women turn the map and drive a car. Recently, due to the development of technology, these differences have practically disappeared.

Girls who play computer games cope with spatial tasks as well as men playing computer games. And all gamers do it better than people who don't play computer games. However, the question arises about the design of the study. Many studies are based on comparing people who play computer games a lot and people who do not play at all. Here we cannot speak with complete certainty about cause-and-effect relationships. It is possible that people with certain cognitive abilities are better at playing computer games, so they like it better, and people who do not make games their hobby are not so good at certain characteristics.

Subjective study

In other studies, all subjects initially do not know how to play or play equally well. As part of the study, they are carried out through a series of actions, that is, they play computer games, and then their characteristics are compared before and after. This raises the question of how realistic it is to carry out a sufficient number of experiments. For players with 7-10 years of experience, the number of hours spent playing can be overwhelming. The research, which is limited in time, tests dozens of hours of play at best.

We may not get any results or get those that do not reflect the long-term effects of a computer game. There is conflicting evidence as to the extent to which spatial abilities develop in the game. Recent neuropsychological studies, in which subjects underwent specially organized play sessions, show changes in the volume of gray matter in the hippocampus, that is, in areas that are associated with orientation in space. This has been shown by 3D arcade gamers and some action computer gamers. Also, this does not happen with all subjects but depends on the strategy they use.

There are two global strategies for orientation in space, which are distinguished in research: orientation directly to spatial factors and orientation to memorization, to automatic actions associated with orientation in-game labyrinths. The effects on the brain can vary dramatically depending on the person's prevailing strategy. However, the changes that occur in the subjects' brains do not necessarily affect their behavior in real life. Another neuropsychological study found no difference in brain activity between people who had extensive experience playing computer games and people who had no experience at all. But they found differences in the level of accuracy of assignments.

Computer game players were faster and more accurate in recognizing visual and literal stimuli. At the same time, they did not demonstrate any peculiarities in the work of the brain that would make it possible to say that they are better or worse able to solve these problems at the level of neural response. Again we are talking about action games, and this is just one of the genres, which further complicates the picture. Any study that shows the positive effects of computer games has some research to disprove its results. Reproducibility is not very good in this area. The most adequate conclusion today is that computer games have little effect on human brain processes. There is some effect, but not as strong as the supporters or opponents of computer games would like.


Studies by Daphne Bavelier's group, which show many different positive effects from specially organized play sessions, are rightly criticized for lack of control over motivational factors. Computer game players may be more motivated to tackle the cognitive challenges that research suggests. Attention and spatial thinking tasks are like games and maybe more familiar and interesting to them.

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