Video games may boost children's cognitive skills, study says

Those who played for more than three hours scored better in memory and impulse control

A child plays Minecraft at home in Kokomo, Indiana, the US. AP
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Children who played three hours or more of video games a day performed better on tests of memory and impulse control than youngsters who did not play games, a US study released this week said.

Frequent gamers showed more activity and higher blood oxygen levels in frontal brain regions associated with more cognitively demanding tasks, and less brain activity in regions related to vision, the researchers found.

The performance could be related to the games, but scientists stopped short of saying there was a cause-and-effect relationship.

The kids who perform better on those tests may be those who chose to play games in the first place, they said.

“While we cannot say whether playing video games regularly caused superior neurocognitive performance, it is an encouraging finding, and one that we must continue to investigate,” said Bader Chaarani, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont in Burlington, the lead author of the study.

The scientists analysed brain scans from about 2,000 children who were among those aged 9 and 10 in the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study.

With the gaming industry raking in billions and children spending hours on their favourite titles, parents have continued to be concerned about the effect on their mental health.

While previous research has linked video gaming to more aggressive behaviour, this study contributes to a growing base of reports suggesting positives for the pastime.

Guidelines set by the American Association of Paediatrics still encourage limits of one to two hours of video games a day.

Other countries, such as China, have gone as far as not allowing children to spend more than three hours a week.

“Numerous studies have linked video gaming to behaviour and mental health problems,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“This study suggests that there may also be cognitive benefits associated with this popular pastime, which are worthy of further investigation.”

Updated: October 26, 2022, 8:23 PM