Playing too much video games could lower functional brain activity in the hippocampus that plays a major role in memory formation and spatial navigation, the researchers said.
“People who spend a lot of time playing video games may have reduced hippocampal integrity, which is associated with an increased risk of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease,” said Gregory West, assistant professor at the University of Montreal in Canada.
While video game players exhibit more efficient visual attention abilities, they are also much more likely to use navigation strategies that rely on the brain’s reward system (the caudate nucleus) and not the brain’s spatial memory system (the hippocampus), the findings showed.
Video gamers now spend a collective three billion hours per week in front of their screens. In fact, it is estimated that the average young individual would have spent some 10,000 hours gaming by the time they are 21, the study noted.
The study was conducted among a group of adult gamers who were spending at least six hours per week on this activity.
“For more than a decade now, research has demonstrated that action video game players display more efficient visual attention abilities, and our current study has once again confirmed this notion,” first author West added.
“However, we also found that gamers rely on the caudate-nucleus to a greater degree than non-gamers. Past research has shown that people who rely on caudate nucleus-dependent strategies have lower grey matter and functional brain activity in the hippocampus.”
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.