People who spend hours playing action-based video games such as Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto may be making themselves more prone to mental disorders, according to a new study.
Researchers found that people who regularly played action games had reduced activity in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for short and long term memory as well as spatial awareness. Instead, they had learnt to rely on a different part of their brain to navigate through the virtual worlds.
The researchers say that the finding is significant because a lack of activity in the hippocampus can precede the onset of mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Previous research has shown that playing such games can improve people’s mental functions and reaction times – but the new study suggests that this may come at the expense of other parts of the brain.
20 best video games in 2015
20 best video games in 2015
1/20 The Legend of Zelda
Nintendo haven’t given too much away so far, but judging by the open world, stunning views, vast maps and ability to attack while Link’s horse Epona rides ahead avoiding obstacles, it’s unlikely to let fans down. Release date: 2015
2/20 Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Set to follow years after the stunning Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Naughty Dog’s dramatic adventure will come exclusively to the PlayStation 4, and will promise the mystery of protagonist Nathan’s “greatest adventure yet”. Release date: 2015
Five players: one monster, four hunters, two conflicting aims. The monster can evolve by killing creatures, while the hunters must work together to take them down. This multiplayer looks set to offer something a little more unique, and a real need to cultivate your characters’ skills in order to succeed. Release date: February 10, 2015
4/20 No Man's Sky
When revealed at E3 last June, the sheer scope covered in their three minute video ensured this upcoming title from British video game developer Hello Games made it into several ‘best of E3 lists’. The exploration potential via a spacecraft across the universe is huge, from deserts to dinosaurs to deep oceans. Release date: 2015
Another entry from Nintendo will see a move in a different direction for the gaming giant. This colourful family-friendly shooter seems two teams of four battle it out to cover the ground in ink. Play once, and you won’t want to leave the inky arena. Release date: Early 2015
6/20 The Order 1886
The PlayStation 4 exclusive is set in a dark and mysterious London, where monsters (half animal, half man) roam the streets. The third-person shooter from Ready At Dawn shared a new trailer on Christmas day, with a glimpse of the terrifying werewolf-esque creatures to put everyone in the festive mood. Release date: 20 February 2015
Set in the gothic city of Y'harnam where a strange endemic illness spreads through the streets in the form of mobs and monsters, the new action RPG release from the makers of Dark Souls was one of the hit trailers from E3 2014. Release date (UK): 27 March, 2015
8/20 Batman: Arkham Knight
The fourth in the Batman: Arkham series will see our dark superhero confront The Scarecrow, and it’ll be the first time fans get to drive the Batmobile – which can be summoned to the player’s location. Release date: June 2015
9/20 Mortal Kombat X
22 years since its first ever release, the tenth title in the fighting series is set to be gorier than ever, with brutally detailed X-Ray moves. The story is set to begin at the end of the last game released in 2011. Release date: April 2015
10/20 Yoshi’s Woolly World
The latest outing from Mario’s dinosaur sidekick takes the lead from Kirby's Epic Yarn, where everything is made of wool. For the Wii U, the game will promise some utterly adorable side-scrolling from Nintendo. Release date: Early 2015
11/20 Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
The sequel to the surprise hit from Devolver Digital will see an unlockable ‘hard mode’ for those who find attacking those enemies too darn easy, and also a ‘level editor’, where players can create their own tricky challenges. Release date: early 2015
12/20 Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
Our greedy pink friend will need rainbow lines to be drawn on the GamePad in order to go forward, and the Wii U game will support Nintendo’s Amiibo figures. Release date: late 2015
13/20 The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The third in the action role-playing series based on the fantasy novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski is set to be '30 times larger' than the previous games, for monster hunter Geralt to explore. Release date: 19 May, 2015
14/20 Star Fox
The first in the series to be released in nine years will use the Wii U’s GamePad to allow the player to view the cockpit in the Arwing fighter. Release date: 2015
15/20 Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Following on from last year’s Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, the new game from Konami follows the mercenary leader Venom Snake as he ventures into Africa, 17 years after the series began. Release date: 2015
16/20 Tom Clancy’s The Division
Inspired by, real-world events which "revealed how vulnerable we've become", Ubisoft’s open world third-person shooter will see players act to control disease spread because of germs on banknotes. Release date: 2015
17/20 Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege
Ubisoft’s first-person shooter will feature counter terrorist scenarios - it’s all about tactic and team play (and explosions). Release date: 2015
18/20 Battlefield Hardline
With the ‘war against crime’ a focus for the new game in the series, EA’s first person shooter will feature a ‘cops and robbers’ gameplay style. Release date: March 2015
19/20 Halo 5 Guardians
The sequel to 2012’s Halo 4 by 343 Industries will require players to ‘solve a mystery that threatens the entire galaxy. Its release will coincide with the Halo television series produced by Steven Spielberg. Release date: late 2015
20/20 Dead Island 2
The survival horror from Deep Silver is the fifth instalment in the series, and will be set in a quarantined California, where the zombies roam free. Release date: Mid-2015
The researchers arrived at their conclusion by giving 26 video game players and 33 non-video game players similar navigational tasks with different solutions. They found that the two groups used distinctly different strategies to reach the end, using different parts of their brains to do so.
It is estimated that people across the world collectively spend three billion hours per week playing video games, while the average young person will have spent nearly 10,000 hours on the pastime by the time they are 21.
“As video game playing becomes more and more ubiquitous, it is increasingly important to better understand the impact this intense exposure has on cognitive and neural functioning,” the researchers wrote, calling for further work to be carried out to establish whether video games had a direct effect on the hippocampus.
Tim Parry from Alzheimer’s Research UK said: “The risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia are varied and complex, but this study does not add Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto to that list. This study focussed on a specific navigation task in young adults and did not look long term at memory and thinking skills.”
The study, conducted by teams at the University of Montreal and McGill University, is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.