Playing three-dimensional video games is not just fun — it can boost the formation of memories, according to new research.
Neurobiologists at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) conducted a study with non-gamer college students who were tasked with playing either a video game with a passive, two-dimensional environment (Angry Birds) or one with an intricate, 3D setting (Super Mario 3D World) for 30 minutes per day over two weeks.
During this period the students took memory tests that engaged the brain’s hippocampus, the region associated with complex learning and memory.
The results showed that students playing the 3D video game improved their scores on the memory test, while the 2D gamers did not. What’s more, the memory performance boost among the 3D gamers was as much as 12% — the same amount it normally declines between the ages of 45 and 70.
Craig Stark, professor of neurobiology & behaviour at UCI, noted that, unlike typical brain training programs, video games are not created with specific cognitive processes in mind. Instead, they are designed to immerse users in the characters and adventure. They draw on many cognitive processes, including visual, spatial, emotional, motivational, attentional, critical thinking, problem-solving and working memory.
“It’s quite possible that by explicitly avoiding a narrow focus on a single cognitive domain and by more closely paralleling natural experience, immersive video games may be better suited to provide enriching experiences that translate into functional gains,” Stark said.
Full details of the study can be found in the Journal of Neuroscience.