Are video games good for adult brains?

Video Games for Adult Brains

Recent studies indicate that video games have the potential to improve executive functions in older adults. A study by Basak et al. (2007) found that 70-year-old adults showed improvement in tests of executive functions after playing a real-time strategy game for just over 20 hours. Additional studies have also found that certain types of video games can slow the mental aging process. 

It is possible that younger adults could also benefit from certain video games. Researchers have observed that video games such as Tetris develop cortical thickness in adults that can improve brain functioning, and there is some evidence that video games can improve driving skills in adults. Many video games develop visual spatial attention, which makes people more aware of changes in their field of vision. In particular, research conducted by Shawn Green and Daphne Bavelier of First Person Shooter games suggests that increased visual spatial attention leads to better driving. 

To learn more about this important topic, check out these straightforward and scholarly articles that reflect the current state of the science. You can also link to our complete bibliography on the science of games and learning or go to the Center for Media and Child Health Research base for more extensive information.

Basak, C., Boot, W. R., Voss, M. W., & Kramer, A. F. (2008) Can training in a real-time strategy video game attenuate cognitive decline in older adults? Psychology and Aging, 23(4), 756-777.

This is a research study examining older adults, with no prior gaming experience, play video games while monitoring their cognitive abilities before and after gaming. 

Bavelier, D., Green, C. S., Pouget, A., & Schrater, P. (2012). Brain plasticity through the life span: Learning to learn and action video games. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 35, 391-416.

The following article explains how the human brain learns through gathering information from the task at hand. When the task at hand is an action video game, the plasticity and learning capabilities of the brain are found to be encouraged. 

Cardoso-Leite, P., & Bavelier, D. (2014). Video game play, attention, and learning: How to shape the development of attention and influence learning? Current Opinion in Neurology, 27(2), 185-191.

It’s often argued that video games can help facilitate learning. To see if they help with specific aspects of learning such as attentiveness and cognitive flexibility, the researchers explore evidence supporting this data.

Libertus, M. E., Liu, A., Pikul, O., Jacques, T., Cardoso-Leite, P., Halberda, J., & Bavelier, D. (2017). The impact of action video game training on mathematical abilities in adults. AERA Open,3(4). 

“[In the article, researchers investigated] whether action video game training would impact a range of mathematical abilities that rely on similar brain regions” (Libertus et al., 2017).

Olfers, K. F., & Band, G. H. (2018). Game-based training of flexibility and attention improves task-switch performance: near and far transfer of cognitive training in an EEG study. Psychological Research, 82(1), 186-202. 

“In the current study, [the researchers] investigated if game-based computerized cognitive training (GCCT) could enhance cognitive flexibility in a healthy young adult sample (N = 72), as measured by task-switch performance” (Olfers & Band, 2018).

Stroud, M. J., & Whitbourne, S. K. (2015). Casual video games as training tools for attentional processes in everyday life. Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 18(11), 654-660.

Researchers examined the correlation between attention and casual video games in order to discover whether or not casual video games such as Bejeweled Blitz could be used as training tools in improving attention problems.

Vakili, A., & Langdon, R. (2016). Cognitive rehabilitation of attention deficits in traumatic brain injury using action video games: A controlled trial. Cogent Psychology, 3(1), N.PAG.

“This paper investigates the utility and efficacy of a novel eight-week cognitive rehabilitation programme developed to remediate attention deficits in adults who have sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI), incorporating the use of both action video game playing and a compensatory skills programme” (Vakili & Langdon, 2016).

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