Can't read maps and girls? Start playing Super Mario

Apr 01, 2014, 06:51 IST | Agencies

London: Many blokes would assert that map reading is not really a female forte. Now, scientists have come up with a way for women to alter that perception. Apparently, they should play video games.

Train your brain: Research suggests using a console for just 30 minutes a day makes brain regions associated with navigation grow

Research suggests that using a games console for just half an hour a day makes brain regions associated with navigation grow, and regular game-players have a greater ability to build a mental map of their surroundings.

Previous studies suggested regular game-players had more grey matter in the area of the brain used for this purpose, but it wasn’t clear if there was a direct link. The study, at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, used volunteers with no experience of gaming, most of whom were women. 

Half were told to play Super Mario 64, a game with a strong navigation component, for 30 minutes a day for two months.

The rest did not play any games. Scans of the gamers’ brains revealed new grey matter in areas associated with map-reading and memory, and tests of their navigation skills showed they were better at creating mental maps.

Writing in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, lead researcher Dr Simone Kühn said, “I’m fairly convinced that what we were training here was basic spatial orienting. This study is the first to show changes in the brain’s structure over the course of being trained to play a video game.”

The results match findings in London taxi drivers, which showed a growth in the brain’s memory hub the more time they spent on the job.

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