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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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