Impact of videogame play on the brain's microstructural properties: cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses

Mol Psychiatry. 2016 Dec;21(12):1781-1789. doi: 10.1038/mp.2015.193. Epub 2016 Jan 5.


Videogame play (VGP) has been associated with numerous preferred and non-preferred effects. However, the effects of VGP on the development of microstructural properties in children, particularly those associated with negative psychological consequences of VGP, have not been identified to date. The purpose of this study was to investigate this issue through cross-sectional and longitudinal prospective analyses. In the present study of humans, we used the diffusion tensor imaging mean diffusivity (MD) measurement to measure microstructural properties and examined cross-sectional correlations with the amount of VGP in 114 boys and 126 girls. We also assessed correlations between the amount of VGP and longitudinal changes in MD that developed after 3.0±0.3 (s.d.) years in 95 boys and 94 girls. After correcting for confounding factors, we found that the amount of VGP was associated with increased MD in the left middle, inferior and orbital frontal cortex; left pallidum; left putamen; left hippocampus; left caudate; right putamen; right insula; and thalamus in both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. Regardless of intelligence quotient type, higher MD in the areas of the left thalamus, left hippocampus, left putamen, left insula and left Heschl gyrus was associated with lower intelligence. We also confirmed an association between the amount of VGP and decreased verbal intelligence in both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. In conclusion, increased VGP is directly or indirectly associated with delayed development of the microstructure in extensive brain regions and verbal intelligence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / ultrastructure
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Globus Pallidus
  • Hippocampus
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Putamen
  • Thalamus
  • Verbal Behavior
  • Video Games / adverse effects*
  • Young Adult