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Study: Why Super Mario 3D World may train your brain better than Angry Birds

Stark_151124_01_1500_szPlay­ing 3‑D video games can boost mem­o­ry for­ma­tion, UCI study finds (UCI News):

…Craig Stark and Dane Clemen­son of UCI’s Cen­ter for the Neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gy of Learn­ing & Mem­o­ry recruit­ed non-gamer col­lege stu­dents to play either a video game with a pas­sive, two-dimen­sion­al envi­ron­ment (“Angry Birds”) or one with an intri­cate, 3‑D set­ting (“Super Mario 3D World”) for 30 min­utes per day over two weeks.

Before and after the two-week peri­od, the stu­dents took mem­o­ry tests that engaged the brain’s hip­pocam­pus, the region asso­ci­at­ed with com­plex learn­ing and mem­o­ry. They were giv­en a series of pic­tures of every­day objects to study. Then they were shown images of the same objects, new ones and oth­ers that dif­fered slight­ly from the orig­i­nal items and asked to cat­e­go­rize them…

Stu­dents play­ing the 3‑D video game improved their scores on the mem­o­ry test, while the 2‑D gamers did not. The boost was not small either. Mem­o­ry per­for­mance increased by about 12 per­cent, the same amount it nor­mal­ly decreas­es between the ages of 45 and 70…

Unlike typ­i­cal brain train­ing programs…video games are not cre­at­ed with spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive process­es in mind but rather are designed to immerse users in the char­ac­ters and adven­ture. They draw on many cog­ni­tive process­es, includ­ing visu­al, spa­tial, emo­tion­al, moti­va­tion­al, atten­tion­al, crit­i­cal think­ing, prob­lem-solv­ing and work­ing memory…The next step for him and his col­leagues is to deter­mine if envi­ron­men­tal enrich­ment – either through 3‑D video games or real-world explo­ration expe­ri­ences – can reverse the hip­pocam­pal-depen­dent cog­ni­tive deficits present in old­er pop­u­la­tions. This effort is fund­ed by a $300,000 Dana Foun­da­tion grant.”

Study: Vir­tu­al Envi­ron­men­tal Enrich­ment through Video Games Improves Hip­pocam­pal-Asso­ci­at­ed Mem­o­ry (Jour­nal of Neu­ro­science). From the abstract:

  • The hip­pocam­pus has long been asso­ci­at­ed with episod­ic mem­o­ry and is com­mon­ly thought to rely on neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty to adapt to the ever-chang­ing envi­ron­ment. In ani­mals, it is well under­stood that expos­ing ani­mals to a more stim­u­lat­ing envi­ron­ment, known as envi­ron­men­tal enrich­ment, can stim­u­late neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and improve hip­pocam­pal func­tion and per­for­mance on hip­pocam­pal­ly medi­at­ed mem­o­ry tasks. Here, we sug­gest that the explo­ration of vast and visu­al­ly stim­u­lat­ing envi­ron­ments with­in mod­ern-day video games can act as a human cor­re­late of envi­ron­men­tal enrich­ment. Train­ing naive video gamers in a rich 3D, but not 2D, video game, result­ed in a sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment in hip­pocam­pus-asso­ci­at­ed cog­ni­tion using sev­er­al behav­ioral mea­sures. Our results sug­gest that mod­ern day video games may pro­vide mean­ing­ful stim­u­la­tion to the human hip­pocam­pus.

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning, Health & Wellness, Technology

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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