With the recent, wide-reaching success of Fortnite, the debate of whether playing video games is beneficial or harmful has never been so important. While much of the debate has been focused on how gaming may reap aggressive behavior, a new study reveals that gaming is, in fact, beneficial. The study shows gaming actually increases the amount of gray matter in your brain, which, in simple terms, means that gaming can lead to faster thought processes and higher intelligence.
The study published by Nature was performed on two groups of people, gaming 'experts' and gaming 'amateurs'. The experts were all participants of regional and national championships for either League of Legends or Dota 2, while the amateurs were people who did not game as much or perform as well when gaming. Both groups consisted of nearly 30 participants.
The research team focused in on one specific part of the brain, the insular cortex. A large part of a person's linguistic processing is believed to take place in the insular cortex, as well as other processes including taste, smell, compassion, empathy, and interpersonal experiences. The pictures taken of the insular cortices revealed that the professional, 'expert' players had enhanced connectivity and gray matter in the insular subregions. Gray matter essentially controls all of a brain's functions, so the increase in gray matter and connectivity showed that the professional players have higher intelligence and faster thought processes.
While the WHO labeled excessive gaming to be a mental health disorder, it seems as if that is not entirely true. To be diagnosed with a disorder, one would need to be so attached to gaming that they would essentially experience withdrawals when unable to game. Additionally, the term 'excessive' can be relative, and this study showed that people who game more than others are more prone to have faster thought processes and be more intelligent.
Although increased gaming was found to be a good way to increase one's gray matter and connectivity, it is important to note that it is not the only way. Some activities like sports and art-based recreation have also been found to improve one's brain connectivity, and these could be healthy alternatives for people who may experience gaming addiction.