Certain Video Game Use in Teens Can Negatively Impact Brain Growth

With the technological revolution, we’ve been given many useful and life-changing tools. The internet, phones, computers, tablets–these have all be transformatory for us as humans, but as time goes on, it becomes clearer that these tools also have potential negative effects. Specifically, the effects of video game use in teens is getting more attention because of a recent study.

The study shows that video game use in teens may have the power to either benefit the brain–or harm it.

How video game use in teens can affect the brain

In the new study, researchers from the University of Montreal and McGill University in Canada found that the part of the brain containing the hippocampal system can be influenced by video games–the way it’s influenced depends on the genre.

The hippocampus is in charge of navigation, spatial learning, and memory. It is an essential part of healthy cognition. When the hippocampus is degraded, a person’s risk of developing illnesses and diseases such as depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, and PTSD increase significantly.

The researchers took a look at the differences in grey matter around the hippocampal area in the brains of participants who either played action video games or never do.

There are two types of strategies in action video games: spatial or response. It seems that those who use response strategy in a virtual reality maze game (counting, memorizing, and patterning a series of actions to remember certain arrays), as opposed to spatial (learning the relationship between specific landmarks and target goals), were more affected in the brain.

Researchers found that those who played action video games frequently had a lower density of grey matter in the hippocampal region and tended to favor response strategies.

Different types of games can impact the brain differently

In the studies that followed the first one discussed above, participants went through 90 hours of training in one of three types of games:

  • Action video game (ex. Call of Duty, Battlefield)
  • 3D-platform game (ex. Super Mario 64)
  • Action-role playing game (ex. Dead Island)

video game use in teensThe study revealed that first-person shooter games like Call of Duty reduce grey matter in the hippocampus when players use response strategies. But after training, the researchers found an increase in grey matter for individuals who used spatial strategies.

Healthy growth was also found in the brain of the control group that trained on 3D-platform games.

Dr. Greg West, leader of the studies, explained what this could mean:

“These results show that video games can be beneficial or detrimental to the hippocampal system depending on the navigation strategy that a person employs and the genre of the game.”

The results suggest that video game use in teens can be a serious issue–or it can be helpful in small doses.

Elevations is here for your family

Elevations RTC is a residential treatment center for teens, ages 13 to 18. Our students often grapple with anxiety, defiance, trauma, depression, ADHD, and other emotional or behavioral issues.

At Elevations, we use a combination of a focused therapeutic lens, real-world environment, secure setting, and caring staff to foster growth and success in our students. Finding the right program can be difficult for a family, which is why Elevations is here to help guide you through it.

For more information about how we deal with video game use in teens at Elevations RTC, please call .