Previous studies have focused on the negative impact of video games in young people, such as depression or aggressiveness. However, the present study analysed data on a larger scale on the cognitive development of the adolescent brain in 2,217 children, the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study (ABCD study), funded by the American Institutes of Health (NIH).

Researchers reviewed participant responses, cognitive test results, and brain imaging of approximately 2,000 children between the ages of 9 and 10, divided into two groups: those who never play video games and those who play them every day for three or more hours.

This was the duration chosen because it exceeds the American Academy of Paediatrics recommendation of one or two hours of video games per day for older children.

Both groups had to perform the same two tasks. In the first, arrows pointing left or right were shown to the children, who had to click on the corresponding button as quickly as possible.

For the second task, the youngsters were shown a first face and then a second, after which they had to say if they belonged to the same person, this time to test their working memory, a short-term memory.

After correcting some related statistical biases, such as parental income, I.Q., and mental health, researchers found that children who played video games consistently obtained better results on the tasks.

During the tests, children's brains were observed using specific imaging techniques. The brains of the children that played video games showed more activity in areas associated with attention and working memory. "The findings raise the interesting possibility that video games provide a cognitive learning experience with measurable neurocognitive effects," conclude the study.

However, it is still not possible to know whether better cognitive performance leads to playing for longer hours, or if it is the fact that playing for longer periods improves the performance in the children observed.

For these and other answers, the study is expected to continue, to allow more structured information and conclusions to be collected when these children are older. The continuity of the work will also correlate with other variables that may interfere with these preliminary results, such as the children's home environment, physical activity, and sleep quality.

Excessive screen time is obviously bad for mental health and physical activity, mention researchers, but study results show that the time spent playing video games may be better than the same period of time watching videos on YouTube for example, which has no detectable cognitive effects.

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