While studies have found that video games may benefit the brain, not all are the same when it comes to helping improve memory. Video game players need to pick their games wisely if they want to improve their brain power.
Neurobiologists from University of California, Irvine have found evidence that 3D games trump 2D games when it comes to improving players' ability to form memories.
In a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience on Dec. 9, researchers have found that playing the relatively passive 2D Angry Birds game does not provide the same brainpower boost as playing Super Mario 3-D World.
For this research, a group of college students was asked to either play Angry Birds or Super Mario 3-D World. After two weeks, the Angry Birds players did not show memory gains but Super Mario players exhibited improvement in their memory recall by about 12 percent.
Study author Craig Stark said that there are a few things about 3D games that do not characterize 2D games. 3D games, for one, contain more spatial information to explore. They are also more complex and involve learning more information.
The above factors may help explain why compared with 2D games, three-dimensional games appear to be more beneficial in terms of improving the brain's ability to recall information.
Earlier studies involving rats showed that 3D environments stimulate the brain's hippocampus, which is known to play a role in spatial memory. In essence, the same may happen to humans who witness the changes of content from plain 2D to the more immersive 3D.
Stark noted that the mental exercise worked in rodents and it is now just a matter of testing this principle on humans. Further research could help determine if the brain's hippocampus gets stimulated by the massive amount of information and complexity or the spatial relationships and exploration that characterize 3D video games.
"Training naive video gamers in a rich 3D, but not 2D, video game, resulted in a significant improvement in hippocampus-associated cognition using several behavioral measures," the researchers wrote in their study.
"Our results suggest that modern day video games may provide meaningful stimulation to the human hippocampus."
The findings of the study show promise for memory growth in young individuals but the researchers' next step is to find out if similar principles could apply to fixing memory loss in older people.