Playing three-dimensional video games like Super Mario over a 2-month period has been discovered to curb minor cognitive impairment and potentially, dementia.
A recent Canadian study conducted by psychology professors from the Université de Montréal involved a sample comprised of 33 older adults between 55 and 75 years of age. They were then randomly divided into three groups during the experimental phase.
For six months, the first group underwent 3D video game training that required them to play Super Mario 64 for half an hour, five days a week. Meanwhile, the second group took digital piano lessons covering the same amount of time. No activities were given to the third group, which served as the experiment's control group.
3D Video Games Improves Mental Health Even Among Seniors
It is stated that two similar studies were made in 2014 and 2017, however, both included young adults in their sample group. After playing puzzle and logic games in a 3D platform, the gray matter in their hippocampus was found to have increased in volume.
The hippocampus is known to affect emotions, spatial navigation, and long-term memory, which is why it is considered as a critical factor in maintaining good mental health. The volume of its gray matter indicates progressive mental disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's.
Promising results produced by the two previous studies urged the Canadian researchers to conduct the recent study. They wanted to know if they could come up with the same results among older people.
Six months after experimentation, two types of measurement were used on participants to allow observation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, cerebellum, and hippocampus. A series of tests were given to gauge mental performance while magnetic resonance imaging was used to determine any changes in the volume of their gray matter.
Super Mario 64 Helps In Strengthening Short-Term Memory
Results show that only the first group's gray matter increased in volume. Growth was observed in both the hippocampus and cerebellum, contributing to an improvement in short-term or primary memory. As for the second group, which learned how to play the piano through computerized lessons, researchers also noted an increase of gray matter volume in the dorsolateral area of their frontal lobe.
The volume of gray matter in all three brain regions declined for members of the control group, linking cognitive impairment to the lack of new learning. Fortunately, the study offers a solution that could possibly reverse such effects.
Gregory West, one of the researchers, explains that 3D video games encourage the hippocampus to create cognitive maps or mental images explored by the player. Those that feature a puzzle or logic genre add more stimulation to the region, promoting activity and gray matter growth.