Each of us sometimes thinks about what to do with our free time after work. Some people will prefer to retire at home with their favorite book, others — to meet with friends, but, of course, there are those who prefer to spend time playing games.
If the first two options are quite traditional and do not cause much controversy, spending time playing computer games often causes a lot of criticism. However, are computer games as harmful as they are said to be?
American scientists from the University of Utah, who conducted scientific research on the effect of computer games on the brain, involved 151 boys in their teens, who were distinguished by great interest and attraction to computer games.
Scientists have found that the connections between the brain regions of avid computer gamers are changing, and to a greater extent, these changes can be called positive. Among the positive changes, they noted an increased connection between the parts of the brain responsible for vision, hearing, and focusing attention.
Scientists believe that the brain of a computer gamer is able to perceive information faster and better, and gamers' coordination also differs for the better. Such skills can be useful to a person in real life, for example, when driving a car or when a non-standard situation arises, which requires a quick focus of attention and reaction.
Concerning concentration on tasks or the ability to perform several tasks at the same time, opinions differ. Some say that the passion for video games improves multitasking skills, others note that gamers are more impulsive than non-gamers and can easily be distracted from the current task.
In addition to the positive, there are also alarming findings. The same research of the University of Utah, in the course of their study, found in gamers' brain changes similar to patients with mental illnesses, including schizophrenia.
Yang Wang of Indiana State University and his colleagues conducted a study of men who had not previously played violent video games. Divided into two groups, some were forced to play violent video games for a week, followed by a week off. The second group did not play such games during the entire study period. As a result, the gaming group was found to have reduced activity in some parts of the brain responsible for cognitive functions. Therefore, violent computer games suppress the areas of the brain responsible for controlling emotions, thereby affecting the mind of the gamer.
Similar studies were carried out by scientists from Michigan. Each of the 15 subjects was asked to play the well-known shooter game for about an hour. During the game, active parts of the brain were recorded using functional MRI. One of the scientists subsequently commented on the results and confirmed that violent video games stimulate the activity of brain regions responsible for aggression.
The findings do not yet provide a complete picture of the impact of computer games on the human brain, and scientists from each group agree that such studies should and will continue to be carried out.