“…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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