young people’s brains get weakened from playing “shooter” video games and puts them at greater risk of dementia in later life, a new research has suggested.
A trial in Canada found that those who spent a lot of time playing games such as Call of Duty had less grey matter in a crucial part of the brain.
Scientists behind the research have cautioned doctors against recommending video games as a means of boosting older people’s cognitive function., warning the activity may be harming their ability to retain memories.
They warned that the activity may be harming their ability to retain memories.
Previous research has shown that people with depleted amounts of white matter in their hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for orientation and for recalling past experience, face a higher risk of neurological illnesses including Alzheimer’s, depression and schizophrenia.
Video games have been shown to benefit certain cognitive systems related to visual attention and short-term memory, but were suspected to damage the hippocampus.
Researchers at the University of Montreal scanned the brains of habitual players of action video games and compared them to non-players, finding the gamers had less grey matter.
“If action video games lead to decreases in grey matter in the hippocampus, caution should be exerted when encouraging their use by children, young adults and older adults to promote cognitive skills such as visual short-term memory and visual attention,” the scientists wrote.
Gaming has been shown to stimulate another part of the brain called the caudate nucleus, more than the hippocampus.
The region acts as a form of “autopilot” and also regulates humans’ understanding of reward.
The scientists said that the more the caudate nucleus is used, the less use is made of the hippocampus, causing it to lose cells.
The scientists recruited 51 men and 46 women and asked them to play a variety of popular shooter games like Call of Duty, Killzone and Borderlands 2, as well as 3D games such as Super Mario, for a total of 90 hours.
Ninety hours of playing shooter games tended to lead to hippocampus atrophy, however playing for the same duration on 3D challenges, which rely more on spatial orientation instinctive responses, increased grey matter within the hippocampal memory system.
The researchers said that those players who tended to orientate themselves in video games using landmarks rather than remembering directions were likely to benefit from playing, however these were in the minority.
British scientists have cautioned against drawing firm conclusions from the study, highlighting the small number of participants.