National newspapers and gaming outlets have been abuzz over the past few hours over a new study released in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The study, entitled “Habitual action video game playing is associated with caudate nucleus dependent navigational strategies” examined the performance of gamers versus non-gamers in a spatial aware maze test, with the researchers suggesting that their findings indicated there could be a link between the development of Alzheimer’s disease and playing video games.
Throughout the study, the researchers tested the ways in which people who played games for more around 18 hours a week compared to a group of non-gamers. They found that gamers tackled tasks in different ways using different responses while also discovering that a brain wave called N2PC works differently in gamers. This evidence pointed to a definite link between the playing of video games and the risk of developers Alzheimer’s disease in later life argued the researchers.
The problem is that the study contains numerous issues according to Chris Chambers (professor of cognitive neuroscience at the school of psychology, Cardiff University) and Pete Etchells (lecturer in biological psychology at Bath Spa University). Writing in The Guardian the pair explain how the researchers did not investigate any actual link between playing video games and developing the disease or perform clinical tests about the risk of developing dementia.
Instead, they simply found that gamers exhibit a type of learning that has been tentatively linked with an increase in usage of a part of the brain called the caudate nucleus. Chambers and Ethcells also argue that the researchers then make several logical leaps to get to their conclusion, namely that an increase in the use of caudate nucleus could reduce the volume of the hippocampus. – something that has been associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The study hinges on the fact that the researchers apparently found that “gamers rely on the caudate nucleus to a greater degree than non-gamers”, something that they cannot claim with any certainty as they did not measure activity in the caudate nucleus. All they did study was a type of behaviour that other studies have associated with the caudate nucleus.
They finish off by stating that any claims made by the researchers or the media that the study shows a link between playing games and developing neurological disorders are vastly overhyped and should be taken with a pinch of salt. So you can feel safe ploughing through on your The Witcher 3 playthroughs.