Spending hours playing with Angry Birds is a lot of fun, but playing 3D video games like Batman Arkham Asylum or Super Mario 3D World could help improve your memory.
Researchers at the University of California Irvine (UCI) discovered that playing 3D video games helps individuals perform better at memory tests.
The findings could be used to create new approaches to prevent or treat memory loss or dementia.
Professor Craig Stark and Dane Clemenson of the University of California Irvine’s Centre for the neurobiology of learning and memory asked non-gaming college students to spend half an hour each day for two weeks playing video games.
A few of the participants were given the popular two-dimensional game Angry Birds, while the others played the 3D video game Super Mario 3D World.
All of the participants took memory tests before and after the two weeks of gaming.
Professor Stark stated that first, the 3D video games have a couple of things that the 2D games do not. They’ve got much more spatial information in there to explore. Secondly, they’re a lot more complex, with much more information to learn. He added that either way, they are aware that this type of learning and memory not only stimulates but requires the hippocampus.
The researchers utilized scans to study how the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for memory formation and learning, was stimulated by the tests.
The tasks mostly concentrated on visual and spatial memory, needing the participants to memorize and recall pictures of various everyday items, and then to distinguish them from other slightly different objects.
The results demonstrated a significant difference between the two groups of gamers – participants who had been playing the 3D video games greatly improved their performances after two weeks, while the change was lacking in the 2D game players.
In the 3D group, the increase was by an amazing 12 percent – the same difference in recalling ability between a person aged 45 and one aged 70.
The rationale behind the experiment was grounded in prior studies conducted on rodents, which have illustrated that when mice explore a maze, they develop new neurons in the hippocampus area, and their memory improves.
Video games that permit a player to roam in a 3D world could be acting like digital versions of mouse-mazes, whereas 2D video games do not have that complexity.
The study also underscores that it remains unclear whether the hippocampus is stimulated by the spatial exploration only or by the overall complexity.
The researchers stated that these results could help develop new methods of keeping the hippocampus strong and functioning as people age.
They state that environmental enrichment such as 3D video games, or even real-life mazes to explore, could be a way to reverse age-related cognitive deficits.
Professor Stark stated that it is frequently suggested that an engaged, active lifestyle can be a real factor in stopping cognitive ageing.