This study goes against an idea about the effects of video games

This study goes against an idea about the effects of video games

A large study indicates that this popular pastime may also have cognitive benefits.
Oscar Wong/Getty Images A large study indicates that this popular pastime may also have cognitive benefits.

Oscar Wong/Getty Images

A large study indicates that this popular pastime may also have cognitive benefits.

RECREATION: While it’s common for parents to worry about the potential negative consequences of video games on their children, a large study published Monday, Oct. 24, in the medical journal JAMA Network Open indicates that this popular pastime may also have cognitive benefits.

Previous studies have focused on the negative effects of video games, such as depression or increased aggressiveness. But these studies are limited by their small number of participants, especially those using brain imaging, says the study’s lead author, Bader Chaarani, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont.

With his colleagues, he analyzed data from the large NIH-funded Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study.

They reviewed participants’ responses, cognitive test scores and brain imaging of about 2,000 9- and 10-year-olds, divided into two groups: those who never play video games and those who play 3 hours or more every day.

This length was chosen because it exceeds the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of one to two hours of video games for older children.

What causal link?

Both groups had to perform two tasks. For the first, arrows pointing to the left or right were shown to the children, who had to click on the corresponding button as quickly as possible. They also had to not press any buttons if a panel “Stop” instead, they show a way to measure their ability to control themselves.

For the second task, they were shown a first face and then a second, later, and had to say if they belonged to the same person, this time testing their working memory, a short-term memory.

After correcting for certain statistical biases related to, among other things, parental income, intelligence quotient and mental health symptoms, the researchers found that children who played video games consistently performed better on their tasks.

During the tests, the children’s brains were observed using specific imaging techniques. Those of the gamers showed more activity in areas of the brain associated with attention and memory. “The findings raise the interesting possibility that video games provide a cognitive learning experience with measurable neurocognitive effects.”, conclude the authors of this study. However, it is not yet possible to know if these cognitive performances lead to playing more, or if it is the fact of playing more that improves these performances, specifies Bader Chaarani.

His team hopes to get a clearer answer by continuing the study when the children are older. This will also exclude other variables such as the children’s home environment, physical activity, and sleep quality.

“Too much screen time is, of course, bad for mental health and physical activity.”, says Bader Chaarani. But his results, he adds, show that playing video games might be a better use of that screen time than watching videos on, say, YouTube, which have no detectable cognitive effects.

See also in The HuffPost :

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