There is another important part of the brain called the striatum that counterbalances the hippocampus, researchers said.
In a small study conducted at the University of Montreal in Canada, researchers determined that people who regularly play games like Call of Duty, for example, had less grey matter in the hippocampus.
A team from the University of Montreal monitored around 100 people while they played gun-based games such as Killzone, Call of Duty and Borderlands 2, along with tame Super Mario games, for 90 hours. A new study found such approaches are turning gamers into responsive spatial learners.
For this reason, while the researchers caution against excessive playing of action video games, in particular by children, young adults and older adults populations with cognitive issues, they also say the design of first-person shooter and action games could be changed to promote a better balance of brain activity. Those who used hippocampus-dependent spatial strategies, however, saw a marked increase in gray matter. The Super Mario games, on the other hand, led to an increase of grey matter in the hippocampus for all participants.
"That's why we made a decision to do a full neuro-imaging study, scanning the brains of habitual players of action video games and comparing them to non-players, and what we saw was less grey matter in the hippocampus of habitual players".
"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 authors reported.
To remember which paths they'd already been down and not waste time looking for the objects they'd already taken, spatial learners oriented themselves by the landmarks in the background: a rock, a mountains, two trees.
Previous studies have shown gaming stimulates the caudate nucleus. After playing the games for a total of 90 hours, the gamers who played the first-person shooters showed a strong bias toward response learning on the maze test.
In their current state, first-person shooters easily allow players "to navigate with a response-route-following strategy without relying on the relationships between landmarks, fundamental to the spatial strategy". Contrary, a response learner uses counting, patterning, and memorizing a series of steps to find their target along the way.
West and colleagues think that in-game Global Positioning System or maps overlayed on the display of most action games are making gamers too spatially responsive.
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