Video games can reduce gray matter in hippocampus

Playing video game can reduce the amount of gray matter in the hippocampus region of the brain by using spatial learning, navigation and memory. A study published in Molecular Psychiatry examined which types of games affect the brain.

The hippocampus region of the brain controls memory and, when it deteriorates, can lead to Alzheimer’s and depression. This study evaluated the affect different types of video games had on reducing gray matter.

Conducted by researchers from the University of Montreal and McGill University, the study evaluated the gray matter in 33 participants who had occasionally played action video games and those who did not. Taking into account how each participant played the game, including spatial learners using recognition and response learnings using patterns and memorization, researchers noted players had a significantly less amount of gray matter with a reduction response learning showing.

In two additional studies on types of video games, researchers enrolled participants to play either action, 3D-platform or action-role playing games. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans, researchers found first-person shooting action games reduced gray matter in those using non-spatial strategies.

"These results show that video games can be beneficial or detrimental to the hippocampal system depending on the navigation strategy that a person employs and the genre of the game," said Greg West, associate professor at the University of Montreal and first author on the study. "While cognitive training treatments that rely on action video games may promote better visual attention skills, the current results show that they may be associated with a reduction in hippocampal gray matter.”