If you’re familiar with “Assassin’s Creed” and “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” or “Splatoon” and “Star Wars,” chances are you or your kids are big-time video-game enthusiasts! More than $15 billion a year is spent on such digital distractions. Worldwide, gamers spend an astounding 3 billion hours a week in front of their screens. The average young person will spend around 10,000 hours gaming by the time he’s 21. (Imagine if half that much time was devoted to volunteer work!)
But back in the real world we want to caution you that too much time spent defending hapless villagers from marauding werewolves can shrink your brain and threaten your ability to think clearly!
We know that video games provide excellent training for combat pilots and that they seem to improve visual attention abilities. But a new study finds that instead of using the brain’s spatial memory system (the hippocampus) to navigate through the twists and turns of a game, players rely on the brain’s reward system. “Ah, that sweet pleasure when you blow some fiend away!” And using the reward center (the caudate nucleus) hour after hour is associated with developing cognitive problems such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Video games are highly habituating, so help your kids limit gaming time. We say no more than an hour a day. And Mom and Dad, you’re going to have to regulate your behavior, too. Set a good example: Put down that controller and walk away quietly. The zombies won’t notice!
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Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.