Video game players more likely to navigate using response vs. spatial learning

Press release from Douglas Mental Health University Institute, on ScienceDaily:

A new study … shows that while video game players (VGPs) exhibit more efficient visual attention abilities, they are also much more likely to use navigation strategies that rely on the brain’s reward system (the caudate nucleus) and not the brain’s spatial memory system (the hippocampus).

Past research has shown that people who use caudate nucleus-dependent navigation strategies have decreased grey matter and lower functional brain activity in the hippocampus.

Video gamers now spend a collective three billion hours per week in front of their screens. In fact, it is estimated that the average young person will have spent some 10,000 hours gaming by the time they are 21. The effects of intense video gaming on the brain are only beginning to be understood.

More research needs to be done, but that item about the implications of spatial vs. response learning does not bode well. There’s some related information — more focused on addiction, but still relevant — in a 2013 article posted in Hippocampus:

Spatial strategies involve learning the spatial relationships between the landmarks in an environment, while response learning strategies involve learning a rigid set of stimulus-response type associations, e.g., see the tree, turn left. We have shown that spatial learners have increased gray matter and fMRI activity in the hippocampus compared with response learners, while response learners have increased gray matter and fMRI activity in the caudate nucleus.