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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It Makes Your Brain Bigger

I love to game. But gaming isn't my entire life, prior to what some may think who read about my exploits. There are several other things I love just as much as gaming. One of those things is science. I read a LOT of science, and not just those major media summary things that try to relate a scientific story while dispensing with the critical details. I mean, why even bother reading something on science that chucks the details down the "too complicated" bin? The details are the important bits!

So imagine my surprise when I was going through my daily science alerts and came across this newly published, peer reviewed, ZOMG it's real science, science article on PLOS ONE: "Positive Association of Video Game Playing with Left Frontal Cortical Thickness in Adolescents." Here's the tl;dr for you and your mother/spouse/significant other.

Video gaming makes your brain bigger.

Or, at least it makes an adolescent's brain bigger. Here's the area of the brain they're talking about.

So how much bigger are gamer's brains than non-gamers brains. Well, not so much as you might hope. But it's significant enough to warrant a peer reviewed article, hey! Here's the actual graphs correlating time spent gaming with actual thickening of the brain folds highlighted above.


I think my favorite paragraph from the article is this one,

Socioeconomic background, approximated by means of the highest education of the parents, did not influence the association between video gaming hours per week and cortical thickness in DLFPC and FEF; when partialing out parental education the correlations were still significant (DLPFC: r(149) = 0.317, p<0.001; FEF: r(149) = 0.289, p<0.001).

The benefits of gaming cross economic boundaries. That to me says it isn't necessarily the "quality" of the game you play, but just the fact you play video games that matters. I've long felt playing video games was beneficial in this way, and not a waste of time. This is just the latest in clinical studies that show gaming does a brain good. But like anything else, taken to an extreme it probably isn't healthy. Except I write that and can't help but see the results above that 60 hour a week mark on the X axis. :-D




  1. I gave the paper a quick read and think that you misinterpreted their findings a little. They do show a correlation between brain size (specifically the left DLPFC and FEF) and hours spent gaming. However, they don't actually show that gaming is what caused the difference in size. They admit this in the discussion: "Although the demonstrated association between hours of weekly video game playing with cortical thickness in left DLPFC and left FEF does not allow the conclusion that these morphometric alterations are caused by video game playing and in particular perceptual decision-making within the latter, there is behavioural evidence that implies causality" . Though they do then site another study with evidence suggesting that gaming could cause the size difference:

    They do however allude to the idea that these regions of the brain are stimulated by videogaming and that it could be a method of training people to use these parts of the brain better. Quite cool either way. It is a nice, to the point paper. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  2. Has causation really been shown, or could it be simply correlation (people with bigger brains like to play video games)?

  3. Cause and effect are not wholly evident in the study. It is perhaps a more accurate title to say, "People with Bigger Brains Play Video Games More." However, that's a rather uninspiring title and I opted for something a bit more appealing.


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