A new study claims that playing video games may have some positive cognitive effects. It involved about 2,000 children and found that those who regularly played them performed better on some tests of cognitive skills compared to children who never played any.
Video games are believed to have a negative impact on children’s development, although there is very little actual scientific evidence to support this. But a growing number of more complex modern experiments prove otherwise. Recently, a group of European researchers conducted a surprisingly interesting study that showed that playing games can even increase a child’s intelligence.
It focuses, in particular, on the cognitive and neurobiological impact of video games on young children. As part of a large project called “Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development, ABCD”, researchers interviewed about 2,000 children aged 9-10 years. About 1,200 participants reported never playing games, and 800 said they played at least three hours a day.
On cognitive tests measuring impulse control and working memory, children who played video games performed better than those who had no such experience. As part of the ABCD study, participants underwent an fMRI of the brain. It showed that children who played video games had greater neural activity in areas related to memory and attention.
“Many parents today are concerned about the effects of video games on their children’s health and development, and as these games continue to proliferate among young people, it is crucial that we better understand both the positive and negative impact that such games may have,” explained Bader Chaarani, lead author on the new study. “While we cannot say whether playing video games regularly caused superior neurocognitive performance, it is an encouraging finding, and one that we must continue to investigate in these children as they transition into adolescence and young adulthood.”
It’s worth noting that the dataset doesn’t differentiate between video game genres, so it’s unclear whether certain genres (such as first-person shooters or puzzle games) are more useful than others. But the results of the study indicate that the children did not suffer significant cognitive damage from video games. At least based on the specific metrics examined in this study.
The ABCD project, from which the data in this study was taken, is still ongoing and includes more than 10,000 teenagers. Thus, the cohort tested here will be retested in subsequent years. This will allow researchers to examine whether cognitive differences between gamers and non-gamers persist, increase, or decrease.