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In the wake of the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, people tried to pin the cause of the massacre on a number of cultural influences: the media scrutinized the music, their "goth" culture, even the video games that the killers played leading up to the tragedy. No direct link was ever found between any of them, but the debate about whether or not video game violence causes real-life violence continues to this day.
A new study may help shift the paradigm that video games are dangerous, and maybe even help people see their cognitive benefits. The study, published in the journal Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, found that action-style games in particular can provide some real, measurable brain benefits. Playing them was linked to "improving attention skills, brain processing, and cognitive functions including low-level vision through high-level cognitive abilities." The researchers also found that supposed "brain training" games don't seem to do much of anything.
Want to learn more about the science behind video games? Check out the TestTube Video Game Archive
Earlier this year, the Max-Planck Institute of Human Development scanned the brains of three-dimensional game players and found they had increased brain development in their prefrontal cortex, right hippocampus, and cerebellum (all areas involved with complex cognitive tasks, navigation, fine motor control, and spatial memory). Another study--this one from the University of Geneva--found people who play action-style video games were markedly better at switching their attention from one part of the screen to another while remaining vigilant to the environment as a whole, meaning they're capable of processing visual information more quickly than non-gamers.
The Video Games That Are Good for Your Brain (Vice)
"Take note gamers: researchers are arguing that action titles like Call of Duty are just as good if not better for your brain than so-called "brain games"-if you play them within reasonable limits."
What types of video games improve brain function? (Eurekalert)
"A new article argues that it is the specific content, dynamics, and mechanics of individual games that determine their effects on the brain and that action video games might have particularly positive benefits."