Can playing video games be good for the brain? Three-dimensional apparently can be good for memory but two-dimensional ones like Angry Birds don't cut it.
New research published in the Journal of Neuroscience by researchers at the University of California (UCI) says playing 3D video games can boost human memory. However, a less involving 2D game like Angry Birds may not bring the same benefits.
The study headed by Craig Stark and Dane Clemenson of UCI's Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory involved a total of 69 non-gamer college students who were split into three groups. Two of these groups were assigned to play either a 2D game (Angry Birds), or a 3D game (Super Mario 3D World) for 30 minutes every day over two weeks. The third group was asked not to play any games.
Cognitive and memory tests were taken by the students before and after the two weeks. The scores of the 3D gamers jumped by 12% while the other groups had no significant results.
The researchers concluded that when one plays big, involving games like Super Mario 3D World, the brain goes through a process similar to real time. "First, the 3D games have a few things the 2D ones do not. They've got a lot more spatial information in there to explore. Second, they're much more complex, with a lot more information to learn," said Stark.
The game pushes the players to consider how to navigate Mario through the game world and its obstacles, thus adding to a wealth of other information they absorb on the way, all of which kept their hippocampus in good shape. The hippocampus is a small organ located within the brain and is associated mainly with emotions and memory, in particular long-term memory. The organ also plays an important role in spatial navigation.
Stark said further research is planned to use this finding to help older people reverse or slow the effects of ageing on the brain. "While we can't all travel the world on vacation, we can do many other things to keep us cognitively engaged and active. Video games may be a nice, viable route," he said.