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Four Ways Video Games Can Actually Be Good For You

By Drew Guarini 

Your mother was wrong. Video games aren’t bad for you. They’re actually making your life better.

Despite hand-wringing over a supposed connection between violence and video games (hint: there isn’t any), numerous academic studies indicate that playing video games has many psychological and even physical benefits.

Taken together, it turns out video games actually make you a better human being.

1. ‘Mario’ Is Like Steroids For Your Brain

To better understand how video games affect the brain, German researchers conducted a study. They asked 23 adults with a median age of 25 to play “Super Mario 64″ for 30 minutes a day over a period of two months. A separate control group did not play video games at all.

Examining the brains of the two groups using an MRI machine, they found that the gaming group had a rise in gray matter in the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum — areas of the brain responsible for spatial navigation, memory formation, strategic planning and fine motor skills in the hands.

2. Video Games May Slow The Aging Process

Playing brain-teasing game for just two hours a week may help slow the degree of mental decay associated with the natural aging process, according to a study this year from the University of Iowa.

A study of 681 healthy individuals ages 50 and older revealed that playing 10 hours of a specially designed video game was able to stall the natural decline of different cognitive skills by up to seven years, in some cases.

3. They May Help Dyslexic Kids Read Better

A study from the University of Padua throws cold water on the idea that video games are bad for the brains of young children.

The team separated children age 7 to 13 into two groups, one of which played an action game called “Rayman Raving Rabids” while the other played a lower tempo game. When the reading skills of the children were tested afterwards, those who played the action game were capable of reading faster and more accurately. The authors of the study hypothesized that the action games helps kids increase their attention spans, a skill considered crucial to reading.

4. Video Games Can Be A Pain Reliever

In 2010, researchers presented evidence at the American Pain Society’s annual scientific meeting that video games, specifically ones with an emphasis on virtual reality, have proven effective in reducing anxiety or pain caused by medical procedures or chronic illness. The study found that when people undergoing chemotherapy or other serious treatments were immersed in a virtual gaming world, they reported significantly less stress and fear. In addition, those being treated for burn wounds found a decline in their pain ratings by rates of 30 to 50 percent.

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