Parents, you can relax. Video games, long thought of as time-wasters, have very positive effects on players. But don’t just take our word for it; research proves it.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, Germany had people play Super Mario 64 and then scanned their brains to see if playing games had any changes on brain function.

According to researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the Charité University Medicine St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus in Berlin, Germany, playing video games increases regions of the brain responsible for memory formation, strategic planning, fine motor skills and spatial orientation.

Super Mario Brain Game
Researchers parked adult gamers in front of Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes a day for two months and tracked their progress against another group that did not play video games. The researchers then measured changes to brain activity using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The study can demonstrate the direct causal link between video gaming and a volumetric brain increase.

– Simone Kühn, Senior Scientist, Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute

The group that played video games showed significant increases of grey matter. The changes were observed in the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum. These areas of the brain are responsible for spatial navigation, memory, fine motor skills and strategic planning.

“Previous studies have shown differences in brain structure of video gamers. The present study can demonstrate the direct causal link between video gaming and a volumetric brain increase,” reports Simone Kühn, the study leader and senior scientist at the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute. “This proves that specific brain regions can be trained by means of video games.”

Gamers have believed in the benefits of video games for a long time. Now those beliefs are supported by science. Ever heard of Lumosity? It’s dedicated to making scientific brain games.

Brain-training games like Brain Age can also help improve brain functionality.

Video games don’t have to be about saving starships. They can also can be learning tools – and now developers are creating video games for the health benefits they produce.

Games ARE Good For You
Brain cells and mental processing are affected by aging, says Eric Braverman, MD. “Typically, we lose 7 to 10 milliseconds — a tenth of a second — of brain speed per decade from age 20 on, which means that aging alone causes us to lose brain cells and processing speed.”

Braverman is the author of Younger Brain, Sharper Mind. His book presents a six-step plan for improving memory and attention. One method: playing games that challenge your brain. So even though you didn’t feel that an hour-long session of Brain Age made you smarter, scientific research suggests that it definitely helped improve your brain function.

And while scientists at the Max Planck Institute are still gathering data, the initial research supports that video games are good for you. Not only that, but they may also have therapeutic qualities…like helping patients with mental disorders such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s.