For years, proponents of video games as more than idle time-wasters have argued that the act of playing games can in and of itself boost brain function. A study published yesterday by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, in the prestigious journal Nature, may be the best proof yet that regularly playing video games can actually make your brain more powerful.
It’s certainly the most visceral. The study, titled “Playing Super Mario induces structural brain plasticity: gray matter changes resulting from training with a commercial video game,” found that people who played at least 30 minutes of Mario 64 every day for two months actually grew significant amounts of new gray matter in three areas of the brain correlated with spatial navigation, strategic planning, working memory, and motor performance.
In other words: Playing Mario actually grew the subjects’ brains. The control group, who didn’t play, experienced no such growth. (There is no word on how much time the control group, who actually showed slight gray matter decrease — attributable to aging — had spent on gaming forums.)