Dec 14 2022

National Study Finds That Video Games Could Improve Cognitive Function in Kids

As esports continues to grow, a National Institutes of Health study examines the impact of video games on the brains of elementary school students.

A recent study of more than 2,200 children could upend preconceived notions about video games. While previous studies have found negative associations with gaming, the latest research shows that video games can do some good.

Children who played video games for at least 21 hours per week showed “enhanced cognitive performance” compared with those who did not, according to research funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The study, “Association of Video Gaming With Cognitive Performance Among Children,” was published in October in the JAMA Network Open journal.

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Better Working Memory, Response Inhibition

Conducting what they believe to be “the largest study to assess the association among video gaming, cognition and brain function,” researchers at the University of Vermont confirmed that the study’s 9- and 10-year-old participants performed better than their nongaming counterparts “on cognitive tests that involve response inhibition and working memory and altered BOLD [blood oxygen level–dependent] signal on these tasks.”

With these results, researchers hypothesize “that video gaming may provide a cognitive training experience with measurable neurocognitive effects.”

Active Engagement in Videos Is Key

Researchers did not look at the types or genres of video games, nor did they assess mental health impacts. However, they reported that the positive cognitive impacts remained “significant” for game players. The researchers note that “children must actively engage with the video’s content, as opposed to passively watching a video, to exhibit altered cognitive brain activation in key areas of the brain involved in cognition.”

KEEP READING: This esports arena is helping young gamers grow connections.

Illustration by Jude Buffum

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