A recent study out of Montreal was the first to find that first-person shooter video games can have a negative impact on the brain; these video games have been shown in the past to have a positive effect on visual attention and motor control, but this study found the opposite is true for the hippocampus. The hippocampus “plays a critical role in spatial memory and the ability to recollect past events and experiences.” In this study, ‘spatial learners’ found their way through the virtual world by paying attention to landmarks; ‘response learners’ comprised 85% of the participants and navigated through memorized sequences of turning left or right. McGill researchers Gregory West and Veronique Bohbot performed brain scans on healthy adults aged 18 to 30 who did not play video games prior to the study and found that after 90 hours of playing first-person shooter video games, response learners had lost a statistically significant amount of hippocampal grey matter. 3D games, on the other hand, rely on spatial memory; they caused hippocampal growth in all control participants regardless of learning type. “The problem is, the more they use the caudate nucleus, the less they use the hippocampus, and as a result the hippocampus loses cells and atrophies.” This potentially has greater consequences with age: loss of grey matter in the hippocampus is a risk factor for PTSD and depression in midlife and Alzheimer’s disease in late life. Further research is needed to determine the nature of this relationship.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Nature: http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/mp2017155a.html?foxtrotcallback=true
DATE RETRIEVED: August 9, 2017