Video games can grow or shrink your brain, study finds

Does your brain feel a little lighter or heavier this week? It could be because of your gaming habits.

A recent study on video games hosted by the University of Montreal took a group of people and subjected them to either first-person shooters or Super Mario Bros. It turns out that there was “statistically significant” less grey matter in the hippocampus after 10 weeks than those who indulged in FPS games than platformers, who actually gained more.

So what does this mean? The researchers speculated on why some video games cause growth while others incur shrinkage in the old noggin’. One theory is that action games’ navigation systems do the thinking for the players in favor of a reward system. Platformers may require more active thought to navigating obstacles while FPS are more about reflexes in linear fights.

Still, there’s not really any cause for concern. “I would never interpret this finding as a big warning against action video games,” a neural plasticity researcher Simone Kuhn says.

Source: NPR
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10 Comments on "Video games can grow or shrink your brain, study finds"

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Brother Maynard

there was “statistically significant” less grey matter in the hippocampus after 10 weeks than those who indulged in FPS games than platformers, who actually gained more.

That’s actually a bit too simplistic and not exactly what the study found. Here’s the link:

The issue was noticed with games with repetitive design and in-game progress, e.g. the traditional brainless tunnel shooters like CoD that use a system of checkpoints and their internal GPS navigation, which means players basically re-run the same stuff over and over again and simply follow the narrow way to the next GPS marker.

In addition to platform games, this problem was not present with action RPGs that used navigation based on landmarks. When players had to find their way using in-game analogy of the real world navigation (e.g. the tall church tower over there, the big tree on the hill up ahead, etc.), the negative effects were not observed.

It pretty much depends on how the game is designed. It can very well be an FPS game – if it’s open world, gives you freedom to approach your challenges in various ways and forces you to use ‘natural’ systems to navigate the game world, all is good. If it is a dumb corridor game with GPS markers and checkpoints giving you the same crap again and again, you might need to find your intellectual stimulation elswhere or face the long term risk.


I’m going to guess that if you took ANY hobby activities: let’s say, playing handball or crocheting, you’d find that some aspects of them grow grey matter in some parts of the brain preferably to others, simply because that aspect NEEDS more of a certain kind of processing than another.
People who put puzzles together will likely have enhanced visual centers, as well as spatial reasoning. They’ll probably lose matter in facial expression evaluation and empathy. Knitters may gain tremendously in the manual dexterity and visualization centers, and maybe lose it from reaction time and balance.
FPS games likely de-emphasize long term memory in favor of reflexes. Platformers need long term memory more, perhaps.

Seems pretty obvious?


Me lose brain? Uh oh!


My brain grew two extra sphere from the back of my head from playing. /wiggles pigtails

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It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that games that require thought are better for your brain…

Maggie May

Of course the one thing I really suck at …. but then again I’m bad at shooters as well so I guess it evens out.

Wilhelm Arcturus

Remember this next time you complain about jumping puzzles. They are there to increase the size of your hippocampus.

Also, hippo is from the Greek for horse while campus is from the Greek for sea monster, so clearly somebody had video games in mind when they named it.

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Schlag Sweetleaf


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Jack Pipsam

I think it would make sense that games would have some sort of effect on the brain in some way or the other, I heard that you can game later without getting tired as it can artificially trigger your survival functions if it really was a life or death situation and sleep isn’t an option.

But so many grow up with games, even hardcore gaming from a young age turn out okay.


Articles from NPR? When did this website get all high-falutin?

On another note, It’s an interesting study. They should expand to PVE and PVP, see if there are any differences.