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 In Blog, Memory

Playing video games can be fun, but did you know they can also benefit your brain? A study from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) finds that playing games with three-dimensional environments can boost memory performance. The study adds to the growing body of evidence demonstrating that video games have cognitive benefits. The findings could lead to interventions for people who lose memory as they age or for people with dementia.

The researchers recruited non-gamer college students to participate in the study. The students played either a passive game with a two-dimensional setting (Angry Birds) or a game with a fully fleshed-out, three-dimensional setting (Super Mario 3D World). The students played the games for 30 minutes per day over the course of two weeks. Before and after the two-week period, they took a memory test. The test involved a series of everyday objects that the students were asked to study. In the test, the students saw images of the same objects, new objects, and objects slightly different from those they reviewed. The researchers asked them to categorize the images. This type of test engages the hippocampus; the ability to complete this test is known to decline with age.

Students who played the three-dimensional game improved on the memory test, raising their scores by about 12 percent. The students who played the two-dimensional game did not demonstrate any improvements in memory. The researchers note that between the ages of 45 to 70, memory is known to decrease by as much as the students gained by playing the three-dimensional game.

Why do 3-D games help memory? According to the researchers, there are a few possibilities, “First, the 3-D games have a few things the 2-D ones do not. They’ve got a lot more spatial information in there to explore. Second, they’re much more complex, with a lot more information to learn. Either way, we know this kind of learning and memory not only stimulates but requires the hippocampus,” explained study co-author Dane Clemenson of UCI’s Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory.

This research is published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

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