Video games may be associated with better cognitive performance in children
Video games may be associated with better cognitive performance in children
Abstract: Children who play video games three or more hours a day scored better on tests of cognitive skills for working memory and impulse control than those who do not play.
A study of nearly 2,000 children found that those who reported playing video games three hours a day or more scored better on tests of cognitive skills including impulse control and working memory compared to children who never played video games.
Posted today in JAMA Open Networkthis study analyzed data from the ongoing Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, which is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and other entities of the National Institutes of Health.
“This study adds to our growing understanding of the connection between playing video games and brain development,” said NIDA Director Nora Volkow, MD.
“Numerous studies have linked video games to behavioral and mental health problems. This study suggests that there may also be cognitive benefits associated with this popular pastime, which are worthy of further investigation.”
Although numerous studies have investigated the relationship between video games and cognitive behavior, the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the association are not well understood. Only a few neuroimaging studies have addressed this topic, and the sample sizes for these studies have been small, with fewer than 80 participants.
To address this gap in research, researchers at the University of Vermont, Burlington, analyzed data obtained when children participated in the ABCD study at ages 9 and 10. The research team examined survey data, cognitive data, and brain imaging data from nearly 2,000 participants from the study’s larger cohort.
They divided these children into two groups, those who said they didn’t play video games at all and those who said they played video games three hours a day or more. This threshold was chosen because it exceeds the American Academy of Pediatrics’ screen time guidelines, which recommend that video game time be limited to one to two hours per day for older children.
For each group, the researchers assessed the children’s performance on two tasks that reflected their ability to control impulsive behavior and remember information, as well as the children’s brain activity during the tasks.
The researchers found that children who reported playing video games three or more hours a day were faster and more accurate on both cognitive tasks than those who never played. They also noted that the differences in cognitive function observed between the two groups were accompanied by differences in brain activity.
Functional MRI scans of the brain revealed that children who played video games for three or more hours a day showed greater brain activity in brain regions associated with attention and memory than those who never played.
At the same time, those children who played at least three hours of video games per day showed greater brain activity in frontal brain regions associated with more cognitively demanding tasks and less brain activity in brain regions associated with vision.
The researchers think that these patterns may result from practicing tasks related to impulse control and memory while playing video games, which can be cognitively demanding, and that these changes may lead to improved performance on related tasks.
Furthermore, the relatively low activity in visual areas among children who reported playing video games may reflect that this area of the brain may become more efficient in visual processing as a result of repeated practice through video games.
Although previous studies have shown a link between playing video games and an increase in depression, violence and aggressive behavior, this study did not find that to be the case.
Although children who reported playing video games three or more hours a day tended to report greater mental health and behavioral problems compared to children who did not play video games, the researchers found that the association was not statistically significant, meaning the authors did not could rule out whether this trend reflected a true association or chance.
They note that this will be an important measure to continue to monitor and understand as children mature.
Furthermore, the researchers emphasize that this cross-sectional study does not allow for a cause-and-effect analysis, and it could be that children who are good at these types of cognitive tasks may choose to play video games.
The authors also emphasize that their findings do not mean that children should spend unlimited time in front of their computers, cell phones, or televisions, and that outcomes likely depend largely on the specific activities that children engage in.
For example, they hypothesize that a certain genre of video games, such as action-adventure, puzzle-solving, sports, or shooting games, may have different effects on neurocognitive development, and this level of specificity to the type of video games played has not been established. assessed by the study.
“While we cannot say whether regular video game playing caused superior neurocognitive performance, it is an encouraging finding that we must continue to investigate in these children as they transition into adolescence and young adulthood,” said Dr. Bader Chaarani. , assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and lead author of the study.
“Many parents today are concerned about the effects of video games on their children’s health and development, and as these games continue to spread among young people, it is critical that we better understand both the positive and negative effects such games can have.”
Through the ABCD study, researchers will be able to conduct similar analyzes for the same children over time in early adulthood, to see if changes in video game playing behavior are associated with changes in cognitive skills, brain activity, behavior and mental health.
The longitudinal study design and extensive data set will also allow them to better account for various other factors in children’s families and environments that may affect their cognitive and behavioral development, such as exercise, sleep quality, and other influences.
The ABCD study, the largest of its kind in the United States, follows nearly 12,000 youth as they grow into young adults. The researchers regularly measure the structure and activity of the participants’ brains using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and collect psychological, environmental and cognitive information, as well as biological samples.
The aim of the study is to understand the factors that influence brain, cognitive and social-emotional development, to inform about the development of interventions to improve the life path of a young person.
The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study and the ABCD Study are registered service marks and trademarks of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
About this news about cognition and games research
Author: Press office of NIDA
Contact: NIDA – NIH press office
Picture: The image is in the public domain
Original research: Open access.
“Playing video games may be associated with better cognitive performance in children” the author B Chaarani, et al. JAMA Open Network
Playing video games may be associated with better cognitive performance in children
Although most research has linked video game playing to later increases in aggressive behavior in children after accounting for prior aggression, findings are divided regarding the association of video games with cognitive skills.
To examine the association between video games and cognition in children using data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study.
Design, setting and participants
In this case-control study, cognitive performance and blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal were compared in video game players (VG) and non-video game players (NVG) during response inhibition and working memory using task-based functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in a large dataset of 9- and 10-year-old children from the ABCD study, with good control of demographic, behavioral, and psychiatric confounding effects. The sample from the 2019 ABCD 2.0.1 release baseline assessment was recruited primarily at 21 US sites through public, private, and charter elementary schools using a population-based neuroscience approach to recruitment, with the goal of reflecting demographic variation in the US population. . Children with valid neuroimaging and behavioral data were included. Some exclusions included common contraindications for MRI, history of major neurologic disorders, and history of traumatic brain injury.
Participants completed a self-reported screen time survey, including an item asking children to report the amount of time they specifically spent playing video games. All fMRI tasks were performed by all participants.
Main outcomes and measures
Video game playing time, cognitive performance and BOLD signal assessed by n-back and stop signal tasks on fMRI. The collected data was analyzed between October 2019 and October 2020.
A total of 2217 children (avg [SD] year, 9.91 [0.62] years; 1399 [63.1%] women) participated in this study. The final sample used in the analysis of the stop signal task consisted of 1128 NVGs (0 hours played per week) and 679 VGs who played at least 21 hours per week. The final sample used in the n-back analyzes consisted of 1278 NVGs who never played video games (0 hours per week of gaming) and 800 VGs who played at least 21 hours per week. VGs performed better on both fMRI tasks compared to NVGs. Nonparametric analyzes of the fMRI data showed a higher BOLD signal in the VG in the precuneus during inhibitory control. During working memory, a smaller BOLD signal was observed in the VG in parts of the occipital cortex and calcarinal sulcus, and a larger BOLD signal in the cingulate, middle and frontal gyri and precuneus.
Conclusions and relevance
In this study, compared to NVGs, VGs were found to show better cognitive performance including response inhibition and working memory, as well as altered BOLD signal in key cortical regions responsible for visual processing, attention and memory. The findings are consistent with video games enhancing cognitive abilities involving response inhibition and working memory and altering their underlying cortical pathways.
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