With all of the advances in video game technology, it’s no surprise that people are attached to their gaming consoles like never before. So much so, that there is actually a brand new medical condition associated with excessive online gaming. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) is not only a real thing but could have some pretty serious implications for people who exhibit the symptoms. So serious, in fact, that they are petitioning for IGD to be added to the manual that all doctors use to diagnose and treat mental disorders. The APA warns, “People with this condition endanger their academic or job functioning because of the amount of time they spend playing. They experience symptoms of withdrawal when pulled away from gaming.”
The APA released a fact sheet describing the preliminary findings of several studies into the phenomenon of Internet Gaming Disorder which states:
“The studies suggest that when these individuals are engrossed in Internet games, certain pathways in their brains are triggered in the same direct and intense way that a drug addict’s brain is affected by a particular substance. The gaming prompts a neurological response that influences feelings of pleasure and reward, and the result, in the extreme, is manifested as addictive behavior.”
Read: 5 Ways Video Games Make You More Intelligent (Backed By Science)
But some researchers wonder if the way that gamer’s brains are wired is not a condition of playing too many games, but that they are just gifted when it comes to playing games. One of the studies that the APA referenced in their assessment of IGD involved using MRI imaging to compare the brains of 78 adolescents who had been diagnosed with IGD with the brains of 73 adolescents who didn’t play online games. What the researchers found was that teens who displayed the defining symptoms of IGD showed increased connectivity between 7 paired regions of the brain.
These connections could actually lead to enhanced cognitive ability. For instance, there were connections between the frontal eye field and auditory complex – which is the part of the brain responsible for processing audio and visual signals, and the parts of the brain that make up the salience network of our brains. The salience network is responsible for our brains processing what is important and what isn’t. Jeffery S. Anderson, a co-author of the study says that “hyperconnectivity between these brain networks could lead to a more robust ability to direct attention toward targets, and to recognize novel information in the environment.”
Researchers believe that the same skills that make you good at a game could be applied to real-life tasks as well.