Video games aren’t just for fun. New research has found that playing 3-D video games can boost memory formation.
Researchers at the University of California at Irvine’s Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory recruited non-gamer college students to play either a 2-D or 3-D game, “Angry Birds” or “Super Mario 3D World,” for 30 minutes a day for two weeks.
“The 3-D games have a few things the 2-D ones do not,” co-author Craig Stark says in a university news release. “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. Either way, we know this kind of learning and memory not only stimulates but requires the hippocampus. “
Students took memory tests before and after the study to measure engagement of the hippocampus, the brain region associated with complex learning and memory. Those students who played the 3-D video game saw their memory test scores improve by about 12 percent, the same percentage decline typically seen between the ages of 45 and 70.
Researchers plan to study further whether environmental enrichment, either through 3-D games or real-world experiences, can reverse the hippocampus cognitive decline in seniors.
“Can we use this video game approach to help improve hippocampus functioning?” Stark asked. “It’s often suggested that an active, engaged lifestyle can be a real factor in stemming cognitive aging.
“It’s quite possible that by explicitly avoiding a narrow focus on a single … cognitive domain and by more closely paralleling natural experience, immersive video games may be better suited to provide enriching experiences that translate into functional gains.”
Brain training programs are usually focused on specific cognitive processes. Video games are designed to immerse users in the adventure through several cognitive processes, including visual, spatial, emotional, motivational, attentional, critical thinking, problem-solving and working memory.
The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute on Aging and the James S. McDonnell Foundation. It was published in The Journal of Neuroscience.
Read the study here.