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According to the study, patients with Parkinson's disease combined with dementia, as well as those with Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, depression or PTSD - all of whom have less grey matter in their hippocampus - should "not be advised to (follow) action video game treatments". Put more simply, the games are more repetitive and require less overall brain function than non-action games.
In a healthy adult brain, there should be an equal amount of grey matter in the hippocampus and the caudate nucleus. They found that participants who favor their brain's caudate nucleus - an area associated with the brain's reward system and habit formation - had less grey brain matter in their hippocampus after playing action games.
Frequent players have been found to have less grey matter, say scientists.
"Video games have been shown to benefit certain cognitive systems in the brain, mainly related to visual attention and short-term memory", said lead author Greg West, associate professor at Universite de Montreal (UdeM) in Canada. "But there is also behavioral evidence that there might be a cost to that, in terms of the impact on the hippocampus".
Gamers engrossed in games like Call of Duty make little use of their hippocampus - crucial for memory - which responds by wasting away like an under-exercised muscle, researchers found. "But what we now understand is the overuse of that caudate nucleus system will result in inhibition of the hippocampal memory system, which will lead to underuse, and underuse will lead to cell death or atrophy".
Is your teenaged son addicted to playing action video games?
The team recruited close to 100 people (51 men, 46 women) and got them to come in and play a variety of popular shooter games like Call of Duty, Killzone and Borderlands 2, as well as three-dimensional games from the Super Mario series, for a total of 90 hours.
Professor Andrew Przybylski, from Oxford University, pointed out that the research lacked statistical power though and does not confirm 90 hours of playing such games leads to harm. And that same subgroup that tested as response learners showed a distinct loss in hippocampal grey matter, similar to results from habitual action gamers.
London cabbies who have learned The Knowledge have an enlarged hippocampus because they use their spatial awareness so often.
Players were also split into two groups, "response learners" and "spatial learners".
Once their learning strategy was established, participants then began playing the action and 3D-platform video games. But, instead of being a laboured way of kicking video games, it's actually an insightful look into how games - specifically "action video games" - can physically change the composition of the human brain.
So if you want to play it safe, it's better to stick with "Super Mario".
"Change is the only constant."
"If you want to test a man's character, give him power."