A lot of scientific research has recently been carried out into how gaming affects our brains, and the studies indicate that spending time playing video games can reprogram not only the shape of the brain, but its behaviour too.

The research indicates that regularly playing video games impacts on the areas of the brain that control attention and visuospatial skills. The impact is a positive one.

Enhancing attention skills

Looking at the affects that video gaming has on the brain, in terms of both sustained and selected attention, recent research has concluded that the relevant areas of gamers’ brains became more efficient that those of non-gamers. Not only that, but the gamers needed less activation time than the non-gamers to focus on more difficult tasks.

Improving visuospatial skills

When we come to visuospatial skills (the ability we have to qualify and quantify the visual and spatial elements that link objects) the research also found this to be enhanced in the gamers’ group. The study reported that the right hippocampus in serious gamers had become more enlarged that the right hippocampus in the non-gaming group.

Exploring the reward response of video gaming

The research also looked into what is referred to as our “reward response.” This is a function of the brain that can relate to gamers becoming addicted to video gaming. In this context, online gaming isn’t just restricted to those who play adventure and puzzle games on PCs and consoles. It also includes those who enjoy having a flutter at online casinos for example.

The research makes no distinction between iGamers and iGamblers, but if the latter play with the same intensity that the former do, it is reasonable to suppose that they too would benefit certainly from improved attention skills, and probably enhanced visuospatial skills too; but what about the reward response and becoming hooked?

Video gaming can become addictive

Research has confirmed that video gaming can become an addiction. It can turn into a condition referred to as “Internet Gaming Disorder.” Tests found that when video game addicts are exposed to certain game-related signals or cues, it can result in cravings; the same sort of cravings that can be witnessed in those with other types of addictive disorders.

Video gaming is not bad for children or the elderly – quite the contrary

While a lot of people are concerned that children could be adversely affected by playing video games, data from the School Children Mental Health Europe project found that after adjusting for age, children who played video games regularly, showed better intellectual functioning by an factor of around 1.75, and in terms of overall school performance, competency levels were increased by a factor of 1.88.

There is also evidence to suggest that regular video gaming can improve the memory function of the elderly, and that this could help to delay the early onset of Dementia.

Do violent video games adversely affect gamers’ brains?

One of the common worries people have about video games, is the effect that violent action games (games such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto) could have on many individuals.  However, an important new study undertaken by Hannover Medical School in Germany belies this concern.

The research was carried out using a group of gamers, who, for the last four years or so, have played video games for between two to four hours per day. The tests involved the use of both brain scans and questionnaires. It was taken by the regular players, and a control group of individuals who only game every now and again.

Both groups were shown the same images that were chosen to specifically provoke both emotional and empathetic reactions. The test subjects were then asked how they would feel if they were to be physically involved in these scenarios.

Both the brain scan results and the questionnaires showed no change to the subjects’ levels of aggression, in both the gamer and non-gamer groups.

Promoting responsible gaming

The bottom line is that video games can indeed affect our brains in different ways. Some ways are positive and some are less so. The online casino fraternity recommend that devotees of iGambling should gamble responsibly. Perhaps this responsible gaming attitude is something that the general video gaming industry can participate in and promote too?