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The Effects Video Games Have On The Brain


By Marnie Martin

Video gaming may seem to be the latest in an ever-growing list of forms of exercise, but it's actually not just about exercising your brain - video gaming can have real health benefits too!

Video games have been around for many years now and they're one of those things that are just amazing to watch on your TV screen. So what has the video game industry done to boost our brains? Well, it turns out playing video games really does have some pretty negative effects, especially if you're suffering from ADHD or ADD. Here are five evidence based facts about how videos games affect the mental health of people who play them...

1. They can reduce attention span and processing speed

Image by Leandro De Carvalho from Pixabay 

The average person spends two hours a day watching the majority of their computerized tasks, which means this could also have a positive effect on your ability to focus. Since video games don't allow people to concentrate on just one task at a time, they often rely on multi-tasking when playing as well. As such, if you're constantly doing multiple things simultaneously, this won't help you get anything done. You need to learn to focus and stay focused in order to accomplish all the other activities in life. A study published in the journal Psychological Medicine found that there may be a link between ADHD symptoms and poor attention span. It also discovered that participants in the research had more difficulty focusing, which suggests that even though most individuals enjoy watching others perform tasks, it may be taking the attention away from performing more complex cognitive tasks yourself. That means instead of sitting around and doing nothing productive, try getting a good gaming session going or something else constructive, like reading or listening to music. Nowadays, it's always more convenient to go online and play games in lieu of having to attend a physical location. This will increase the amount of time you spend with your eyes closed, so be sure to try and keep them active.

2. Increased aggression

Image by un-perfekt from Pixabay 

When you do some aggressive behaviour, the environment can trigger a release of dopamine, which can then be released into your frontal cortex, where it acts as a neurotransmitter. When you have ADHD symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity, these can sometimes lead to increased aggression, particularly if you're also an avid gamer. According to a 2008 article in the British Journal of Psychiatry in Britain, it was shown that people who participated in violent videogames scored higher than those who did not play any video games. However, people who were "aggressive" when playing the violent video games tended to become less impulsive when playing against opponents, meaning that while a game may offer players lots of choices, your decision making is still affected by what you see and hear in the games. Playing games against characters that are more cunning and capable of deceit could make certain games much easier to remember and understand than previous ones. If you find that playing violent games can take up your time better when playing with friends rather than alone, consider signing up, whether that be online or on mobile devices.

3. Low self-esteem issues

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

When you have depression and ADHD, it's likely to leave you feeling low self-esteem. A study in the United Kingdom showed that those with a higher level of social anxiety and low self-esteem had greater levels of symptoms of depression. Not only that, but those children who had hyperactive boys and girls tended to experience lower self-love among themselves. While gamers may feel comfortable talking about their personal lives in gaming, because gamers generally enjoy participating in competition, they often feel obliged to use their creativity and imagination to excel. In this case, having a low sense of self and being unable to express your own passions makes you feel bad about you and the world in general. People need to know that they're worthy of love and acceptance, not only in the world of a game.

4. Emotional memory problems

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay 

As you've probably already seen, many of us have developed emotional memories in the process of creating new worlds and experiences. These events are triggered by the same receptors used by cocaine and amphetamines to stimulate memory. We call these neural circuit changes 'emotions.' There is no direct scientific evidence supporting this theory of 'emotion memory' other than anecdotal reports that it does occur within gaming. But this isn't necessarily a problem - it's just a bit different. Sometimes we just need to shift our focus and put aside everything that's happening around us. At times like this, playing a game can take over. For example, my husband and I once played Pokémon Sword & Shield for seven hours straight, and we both became frustrated with eachother as both felt as though we weren't enjoying the game. Our mother agreed to buy me new clothes for the evening but when we returned home, we couldn't remember what was in the store. After playing for several days, however, we remembered what we'd bought and began to enjoy it again, and it turned out it wasn't all terrible until our son came along. That night we went back to practice Pokemon Sword & Shield to refresh our minds before bedtime, hoping that when he came home, he would feel better.

5. Poor working memory

Image by Lukas Bieri from Pixabay 

A 2011 review of 18 studies concluded that watching video games can interfere with your short term and long term memory. Even though a lot of people might prefer to play the games themselves, you're likely to suffer working memory problems when engaging in these types of video games. One study by researchers at University College London looked at the performance of college students who took part in a competitive strategy game called Strategy Game II (SGII). Those who were involved in SGII had a shorter response time than participants in the control group. Their performance remained stable throughout the entire game, but decreased slightly as the game advanced. Other times, researchers observed that subjects playing video games had improved their working memory skills, but didn't improve overall memory. It seems like some people tend to remember details better when in games and sometimes they forget information more easily and quickly when playing. You might want to experiment with a couple of games that require memorization, such as Sudoku and Chess.

If your work stresses the importance of paying attention to every detail, the games you try to play can only serve you worse than working hard. And maybe your doctor told you to get a hobby, or perhaps it's a way you cope with your job. Maybe you feel like an alien trying to explain his strange foreign language, but it's actually quite beneficial in so many ways. Whether you have ADHD or not, or whether you're worried about the future of the human species, consider giving investing in yourself a try. You'll find that you have to.

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