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Study says video games can boost kids’ brainpower

Data came from from nearly 2,000 children aged nine and ten.

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Happy father and son sitting on a sofa playing video games
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By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

Playing video games can boost children's brainpower, according to new research from Vermont University.

It can lead to better impulse control and working memory, improving behavior and academic performance.

Lead author Dr. Bader Chaarani, a psychiatrist at Vermont University, New England, described the findings as "encouraging."

He said: "Many parents today are concerned about the effects of video games on their children's health and development.

"As these games continue to proliferate among young people it's crucial we better understand both the positive and negative impact such games may have."

The team analyzed survey, cognitive and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) data from nearly 2,000 children aged nine and ten.

Those who reported playing video games for three or more hours per day were faster and more accurate in memorizing information and better at controlling impulses.

They also showed higher activity in regions of grey matter associated with attention and memory than peers who never played.

The participants also had more in frontal areas linked to cognitively demanding tasks and less in those related to vision.

Portrait of two Afro American brothers playing video games at home. Lifestyle and technology concept.
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The patterns may stem from practicing tasks related to impulse control and memory while playing video games.

The changes may lead to improved performance on related challenges.

Comparatively lower activity in visual areas could reflect efficiency from looking at screens.

Dr. Chaarani said: "While we cannot say whether playing video games regularly caused superior neuro-cognitive performance, it's an encouraging finding, and one we must continue to investigate in these children as they transition into adolescence and young adulthood."

The threshold was selected as it exceeds American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines which recommend one to two hours per day for older children.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) who was not involved in the project, said: "This study adds to our growing understanding of the associations between playing video games and brain development.

"Numerous studies have linked video gaming to behavior and mental health problems. This study suggests there may also be cognitive benefits associated with this popular pastime, which are worthy of further investigation."

Although a number of studies have investigated relationships between video gaming and cognitive behavior, the neurobiological mechanisms are not well understood.

Only a handful have addressed the topic and sample sizes have been small - with fewer than 80 participants.

The latest results are based on the ongoing Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study which is supported by NIDA.

The findings were published by JAMA Network Open.

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