Research from the University of Montreal shows that video gamers who play action video games like Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Video game play linked with reduced grey matter
Scientists indicated that this type of gameplay is linked with players using a part of the brain called the caudate nucleus. It is the use of this area of the brain that is linked to a decrease in the grey matter of the hippocampus.
The hippocampus controls learning, emotion, and memory. This reduced volume of grey matter in the hippocampus has been associated with neurological and psychological disorders, such as depression and dementia.
The Canadian researchers concluded that action game players would be predisposed to mental illness because of the lost grey matter resulting from the overuse of the caudate nucleus.
“This means people who play a lot of action video games could have reduced hippocampal integrity, which is associated with increased risk for neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease,” explained co-author of the study Dr. Gregory West, assistant professor at the University of Montreal.
Skullcap recordings showed double usage by game players
Researchers took recordings of eye movements and brain waves from 26 video game players and 33 non-players as they made their way through a virtual maze. The maze had various obstacles like mountains and trees along with items to be retrieved. Skull caps were worn by the participants to take the recordings.
Study findings showed video game players used their caudate nucleus for navigating more than twice as often as non-gamers that equaled about 80 percent. The non-gamers only used it 42 percent of the time, and primarily relied on their spatial memory system of the hippocampus instead.
The caudate nucleus is also linked with alcohol and drug addiction. It is often referred to as the brain’s reward system.
“We, however, also found action video game players use navigation strategies that rely on the caudate nucleus to a much greater degree than non-video game players,” explained Dr. West. “Past research has shown people who rely on caudate nucleus dependent strategies have lower grey matter and functional brain activity in the hippocampus.”
Average young person playing 10,000 hours by age 21
Researchers report that the average young person has played approximately 10,000 hours of video games by the time they reach the age of 21. Currently, it is believed that people around the globe play up to three billion hours worth of video games a week.
Researchers concluded that because of the wide array of effects, both good and bad, that have been linked with video game playing, more research is definitely needed. Further neuroimaging will be needed to continue to define specific video game effects on the hippocampus and the brain’s reward system.
—The Alternative Daily