If you're an avid gamer, you're familiar with the sensation. Perhaps you spent three hours last night playing Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag. Exhausted, you go to bed, but your brain is hearing sounds: songs of the pirates aboard your in-game ship, that eagle sound that occurs when you jump into a cart of hay or the background noise and voices of Nassau.
Scientists now have a word for the auditory sounds video gamers often hear long after they've played a game: "game transfer phenomena."
A study by Nottingham Trent University's International Gaming Research Unit recently looked at game transfer phenomena, or the common auditory sensation that happens when you hear game sounds and background music even after you've stopped playing.
In the study, researchers visited online game forums and collected information from over 1,200 gamers about their experiences hearing video game sounds when they weren't playing. Some of those gamers admitted to hearing audio from games outside of playing, including sword slashes, gunfire and that very distinctive music that accompanies finishing off a monster in the Final Fantasy game series.
"There were lots of examples of players hearing the game music, in the same way as you continue to hear music in your head when you've stopped listening," says Angelica Ortiz de Gortari, the study's lead researcher. "Often it happens when you're trying to fall asleep - players would look for their computer or console because they thought they'd left the game on."
Obviously, the reasoning behind these auditory hallucinations has a lot to do with how often you hear these noises. With video games, the same noises are heard repeatedly during long gaming sessions, resulting in them somehow getting embedded inside your brain.
Of course, one might argue that using gaming forums for a scientific study isn't very scientific, given the nature of gamers who might often exaggerate about experiences. However, game transfer phenomena is very similar to what also makes you feel your phone vibrating even when it isn't, another common occurrence in today's mobile world. In fact, a 2012 study on that subject found that 90 percent of college students surveyed admitted to feeling their phone vibrating, even when it wasn't.
It seems that modern society and technology are changing how our brains process input from our senses.
"Something in your brain is being triggered that's different than what was triggered just a few short years ago," says Dr. Larry Rosen, a research psychologist studying the effect of technology on our brains.
Although some psychiatrists might look at these studies and recommend occasionally stepping away from technology, it's doubtful we're giving up our video games and mobile phones. Instead, maybe we just want to chalk up these changes to a new form of brain evolution.