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Video Gaming May Lead to Higher Risk of Neurological Disorders

May 21, 2015 03:46 PM EDT
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You may choose to ignore your mom when she tells you to quit playing video games after hours of staring at the television, but she really has your best interest at heart. Video gaming, according to a new study, may lead to a higher risk of developing certain neurological disorders.

A team of researchers report in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B that while video game players exhibit more efficient visual attention abilities, they are also much more likely to use navigation strategies that rely on the brain's reward system (the caudate nucleus) and not the brain's spatial memory system (the hippocampus).

So what exactly does that mean?

Well, past research has shown that people who use caudate nucleus-dependent navigation strategies have decreased grey matter and lower functional brain activity in the hippocampus. This, in turn, may lead to an increased risk of neurological disorders.

Video gamers now spend a collective three billion hours per week in front of their screens. In fact, it is estimated that the average young person will have spent some 10,000 hours gaming by the time they are 21 years old. Scientists are now just beginning to understand the effects of intense video gaming on the brain, but this new study suggests that the repercussions could be severe and last over the long term.

To better understand how video gaming impacts the brain, the research team focused on a group of adult gamers who were spending at least six hours per week glued to their televisions, controller in hand.

"For more than a decade now, research has demonstrated that action video game players display more efficient visual attention abilities, and our current study has once again confirmed this notion," first author Dr. Gregory West, assistant professor at the Université de Montréal, Canada, said in a press release. "However, we also found that gamers rely on the caudate-nucleus to a greater degree than non-gamers. Past research has shown that people who rely on caudate nucleus-dependent strategies have lower grey matter and functional brain activity in the hippocampus. This means that people who spend a lot of time playing video games may have reduced hippocampal integrity, which is associated with an increased risk of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease."

The study helps to shed light on the impact of video gaming on the brain, but further research is needed to confirm the new findings and determine the direct effects of specific video games on the integrity of the reward system and hippocampus.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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