Plugged In

Do gamers have bigger brains?

Plugged In

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Check out the big brain.

Some insist that playing games can enhance your brain, but a new
study turns this notion on its head, arguing that a bigger brain can
improve your game.

According to the BBC, a new study
posted in the Cerebral Cortex Journal shows that the size of three specific brain structures affects a player's ability to learn and excel
at video games. The researchers, who come from the University of
Illinois, the University of Pittsburgh and the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, argue that their findings could change how we perceive
of differences in learning ability.

The team recruited 39 subjects (29 women and 10 men) and had them
all play a specially designed video game. None of the subjects were
avid gamers; they'd all played less than three hours a week for the
last two years. Some of the subjects played a version of the game that
had only one goal, while others played a version that featured
routinely changing goals.

It turns out that players with a larger nucleus accumbens -- a
structure in the brain's reward center -- seem to have a competitive
advantage in the early hours of play. The researchers believe this may
indicate a heightened "sense of achievement." The size of two other
brain structures, the caudate and the putamen, were also linked to
gaming prowess.

That sounds about right to Arthur Kramur, a professor who worked on the study.

"This makes sense, because these areas have been linked to learning
procedures and new skills, as well as adapting to changing
environments," he said.

So how big of a deal is a bigger brain for gamers? Researchers argue
that roughly 25% of the difference between each player's score can be
predicted by the size of their brain. That should spell good news for
the lucrative brain-training software market, although some believe
such games don't really work after all.

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