March 22, 2023
Study: Association of Video Gaming With Cognitive Performance Among Children. Image Credit: rangizzz/Shutterstock

What is the association between video games and cognition in children?

A recent study published in Open JAMA Network investigated the association between video games and children’s cognitive skills using self-reported screen time surveys and task-based functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Study: Association of video games with cognitive performance in children. Image Credit: rangizzz/Shutterstock


The growth of video games and the subsequent increase in the percentage of children playing video games over the past two decades has led to growing concerns about mental health and behavioral issues such as violence, depression and bullying. aggressiveness.

Contrary to the results of psychological studies, a positive association has been proposed between video gaming and cognitive skills. The insightful and careful decision-making skills demanded by video games are thought to equip children with cognitive flexibility, enhanced reaction time, logic, and problem-solving skills that can be transferred to real life tasks.

Studies report associations between video games, improved top-down and bottom-up attention, and improved visuospatial memory in video gamers. Improved long-lasting cognitive control functions have also been observed in association with video games, particularly in improving reading ability in dyslexic children. Studies have also used fMRI to study brain activity in video gamers. However, despite various investigations into the association between cognitive function and video gaming, the neurological mechanisms remain unclear, possibly due to inadequate sampling.

About the study

In the current study, researchers used the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, the largest and oldest study conducted at 21 sites across the United States on child health and brain development. , to construct the dataset. The dataset consists of behavioral and neuroimaging data from nine- and 10-year-old children. Self-reported surveys of the number of hours spent per week on the computer, smartphone, console and other electronic devices were used for the analysis.

The ABCD sample was demographically diverse and excluded participants who had contraindications to MRI such as pacemakers and cochlear implants, inability to speak English, major neurological disorders, sensorimotor and auditory impairments, autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, birth complications, gestational age less than seven months, low birth weight and reluctance to complete homework. The study included 2105 mono and dizygotic twins.

The survey consisted of questions about the amount of time spent on any type of screen time the children indulged in on typical weekdays and weekends. The categories covered social networking sites, YouTube videos, TV shows and movies, video games on computers, smartphones and consoles, and video and text chat.

Demographic information and health and weight measurements were collected. The National Institutes of Health Toolbox Cognitive Battery was used to derive intelligence quotient (IQ) scores, while the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) was used to assess mental health symptoms.

Blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal and cognitive performance determined from task-based fMRI data were compared between video gamers and non-video gamers during working memory and l response inhibition.


The results indicated that video gamers performed better than non-video gamers on stop signal (SST) and n-back tasks and showed larger BOLD signals in fMRI images of the precuneus. The calcarine sulcus and occipital cortex of video gamers showed weaker BOLD signals, while the precuneus and the middle, frontal, subparietal, and cingulate gyri showed activation during n-back tasks.

Although the study did not observe significant differences in mental health and behavioral characteristics between video gamers and non-gamers, video gamers had the highest scores in all CBCL categories, indicating the likelihood of more serious effects with prolonged exposure to video games.

Behavioral performance results from the SST suggest that video gamers are less sensitive to distractions and perform better than non-video gamers in response-based and selection-based tasks. The n-back test results also indicated better visuospatial working memory in video gamers. The overall results provided evidence for increased recruitment of attentional control areas of the brain through response inhibition tasks.


Overall, the study found that video gaming was associated with improved cognitive function involving working memory and response inhibition. Despite the high CBCL scores in video gamers, the results suggest the possibility that the cognitive training provided by video games may have substantial neurocognitive growth outcomes.

The longitudinal nature of the ABCD study will allow researchers to study cognitive correlates in participants over time and even examine associations between behavior problems and video games over time.

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