If you ask any parent how they feel about their child playing video games, you’ll almost certainly hear concerns about the number of hours spent in a virtual world and the potential for negative impacts on behavior, cognition and mental health. Contrary to this popular opinion, however, a recent study found that playing video games frequently may be linked to improved brain performance in children.
Compared to children who had never played video games, those who reported playing video games for three or more hours a day or more frequently scored higher on tests of their cognitive abilities, including control impulses and working memory.
The report published in Open JAMA Network said “As part of the National Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study and after controlling for confounding effects, the results of this case-control study of 2217 children showed improved cognitive performance in children who played video games versus those who did not.”
“Clear differences in blood oxygen level-dependent signaling have been associated with video gaming in task-related brain regions during inhibition control and working memory.”
Lead author Bader Chaarani, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont, told AFP he was naturally drawn to the topic as an avid gamer himself with expertise in neuroimaging.
Previous research had focused on adverse effects, linking gambling to depression and increased aggression.
These studies, however, were limited by the relatively small number of participants, especially those involving brain imaging, Charaani said.
For the new research, Chaarani and her colleagues analyzed data from the large ongoing study of adolescent brain cognitive development (ABCD), funded by the National Institutes of Health.
This threshold was chosen because it exceeds the American Academy of Pediatrics screen time guidelines of one or two hours of video games for older children.