Habitual action video game playing is associated with caudate nucleus-dependent navigational strategies

Proc Biol Sci. 2015 Jun 7;282(1808):20142952. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.2952.


The habitual playing of video games is associated with increased grey matter and activity in the striatum. Studies in humans and rodents have shown an inverse relationship between grey matter in the striatum and hippocampus. We investigated whether action video game playing is also associated with increased use of response learning strategies during navigation, known to be dependent on the caudate nucleus of the striatum, when presented in a dual solution task. We tested 26 action video game players (actionVGPs) and 33 non-action video game players (nonVGPs) on the 4-on-8 virtual maze and a visual attention event-related potential (ERP) task, which elicits a robust N-2-posterior-controlateral (N2pc) component. We found that actionVGPs had a significantly higher likelihood of using a response learning strategy (80.76%) compared to nonVGPs (42.42%). Consistent with previous evidence, actionVGPs and nonVGPs differed in the way they deployed visual attention to central and peripheral targets as observed in the elicited N2pc component during an ERP visual attention task. Increased use of the response strategy in actionVGPs is consistent with previously observed increases in striatal volume in video game players (VGPs). Using response strategies is associated with decreased grey matter in the hippocampus. Previous studies have shown that decreased volume in the hippocampus precedes the onset of many neurological and psychiatric disorders. If actionVGPs have lower grey matter in the hippocampus, as response learners normally do, then these individuals could be at increased risk of developing neurological and psychiatric disorders during their lifetime.

Keywords: action video games; hippocampus; response learning; spatial memory; striatum; visual attention.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Caudate Nucleus / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Spatial Navigation*
  • Video Games* / statistics & numerical data
  • Visual Perception
  • Young Adult