What Gaming Does to Your Brain

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Forget how your mum used to say that too much gaming would turn you into a square-eyed zombie. Science has proved her wrong. Yes, the good news is that playing computer games has many positive effects on the brain and can help you develop essential skills in life. Games are now being created to help improve memory, hand-eye coordination, and cognitive development. So which games should you be getting involved with to boost your brain’s potential?

For an all-round brain function-enhancing game, online poker is a good place to start. Over 40 million people play poker regularly, and the ones that are flourishing are those who have begun to understand the positive benefits the popular card game is having on their brains. The World Series of Poker has recently witnessed a rise in younger champions, who seem to have understood the value in keeping fit and healthy to maximise their brain power for the high-stakes tournaments.

A skilled poker player must utilise their memory to think about which cards have been predominant in recent hands, but also to remember how certain players bet when they were dealt particular cards. Did player A go high pre-flop when he had the pocket aces? Or did he bet gradually to draw the other players in and subtly win their money? These are the kind of questions poker players need to ask themselves when thinking about whether to bet against someone. They must also tap into maths skills to be able to calculate percentages, and in doing so work out their odds of receiving the card they need on the river to complete a hand.

Along with training general memory sharpness, research has shown that gaming actually has an effect on chemicals within the brain. A study by Dr Hans C. Breiter of Massachusetts General Hospital found that during gambling, blood flow to the brain increased in a similar way to when people take euphoric drugs. They also found that the more money involved, the more excited a person became. High stakes games like roulette and blackjack are prime examples of how to achieve this rush.

"Brain Training on DS Lite" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Lord Biro

For those that don’t like gambling though, there are plenty of other games that can be played to keep your mind sharp. Over recent years, brain training apps for mobile have become hugely prevalent. Peak is a collection of mini-games designed to improve memory, language, mental agility and attention, and Cognito is geared towards improving players’ logic skills.

Massive Mulitplayer Online Role Playing games like World of Warcraft can help to advance people’s social skills, as the aim of the game is to meet like-minded people and embark on quests together, and online shooter games like Call of Duty can help players develop their cooperative skills.

So not only do games help release pleasure inducing endorphins that stimulate the brain and cause excitement, they also perform a secondary function in sharpening up cognitive skills. So gamers, don’t feel bad about playing your favourite game for hours on end. It’s having a positive effect on your brain.

Header image: "Gaming" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by matsuyuki

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