Video games are part of the long, long list of supposedly lowbrow pop culture items that people are convinced will rot your brain. It’s got plenty of company alongside the likes of television, comic books, and pop music — if you go back far enough, you can probably find some ancient Sumerian claiming this whole writing business will do nothing but make people dumber — but a new study suggests a steady diet of gaming well into old age could actually help keep people’s brains healthy.
As psychologists from the University of Montreal write Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, research participants who played 3D platforming games like the iconic Super Mario 64 had more gray matter in their hippocampus after playing. That part of the brain is super important for some of the most important memory functions, like transforming short-term memories into long-term ones and maintaining the spatial memory that helps us navigate the world around us.
Previous studies had only tested this on young men in their 20s — a prime gaming demographic, basically — but the researchers wanted to see if senior citizens could get the same hippocampus-related perks from playing platformers. They recruited 33 people aged 55 to 75 and had them either play Super Mario 64regularly, take piano lessons for the first time, or do nothing. Read more