New Study Suggests Video Games May Boost Kids' Brain Power

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children spend around seven hours per day on entertainment media, including video games. Although a 2018 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that violent video game playing is linked to aggression, a new 2022 study in JAMA Network Open found that video game playing overall is connected to improved cognitive performance.

The study included more than 2,000 children between nine and 10 years old and compared children who reported playing no video games with children who played an average of 21 hours per week. The children performed cognitive tasks, and the researchers conducted functional MRI scans to measure the children's brain activity.

The children who played video games more than 21 hours per week could memorize information better and had better impulse control than the children who never played video games. The MRI scans found that video game players had more active regions in the brain associated with attention and memory.

The benefits of playing video games

Although a 2020 Mott Poll Report found that 86% of parents believed their children played video games too much, this new study from JAMA Network Open showed that video games might benefit a child's cognitive skills. In a news release about the study, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow said that the study helps us understand how video games interact with the brain, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "Numerous studies have linked video gaming to behavior and mental health problems," Volkow said. "This study suggests that there may also be cognitive benefits associated with this popular pastime, which are worthy of further investigation."

The researchers noted that the study's findings had some limitations in the research. The study didn't differentiate which type of video games the children played, which might show different results in future research. For example, some video games are more interactive, and others might have different effects on learning and memory. The researchers also mentioned that the results couldn't determine causality. In other words, it could be possible that children who have better brain functioning play video games more frequently.