The study, which will be published in the Dec 9th issue of The Journal of Nueroscience, recruited nongaming students to participate in the study. The students were broken into two groups. One group played Angry Birds, which is considered a relatively passive 2D game and the other group played Super Mario 3D World, which the study described as a game with an intricate 3D setting. Each group played the games for 30 minutes per day for two weeks.
Students participated in memory tests designed to engage the brain’s hippocampus, which is the region of the brain associated with complex learning and memory functions, before and after the two-week period of playing either game.
Ultimately, the study found that students playing the 3D video game increased their score – while students playing the 2D game did not. The increase was not insignificant, either. The study showed that students playing the 3D video game showed a 12 percent increase on their memory tests.
The study elaborated on the different challenges presented by 2D and 3D games. Speaking about the the effect of 3D games on the brain, researcher Craig Stark stated “They’ve got a lot more spatial information in there to explore. Second, they’re much more complex, with a lot more information to learn. Either way, we know this kind of learning and memory not only stimulates but requires the hippocampus.”
The researcher’s next step was to observe what kind of effect video games might have on older populations, who are especially at risk to memory skills degrading. This effort is funded by a $300,000 grant that has been provided by the Dana Foundation.