Video games are part of the long, long list of supposedly lowbrow pop culture items that people are convinced will rot your brain.
It’s got plenty of company alongside the likes of television, comic books, and pop music – if you go back far enough, you can probably find some ancient Sumerian claiming this whole writing business will do nothing but make people dumber – but a new study suggests a steady diet of gaming well into old age could actually help keep people’s brains healthy.
As psychologists from the University of Montreal write Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, research participants who played 3D platforming games like the iconic Super Mario 64 had more gray matter in their hippocampus after playing.
Researcher Gregory West says video games like Super Mario 64 make the hippocampus build a cognitive map of the virtual environment, which is a great way to reverse the atrophy of gray matter that normally happens as people get older.
“The good news is that we can reverse those effects and increase volume by learning something new, and games like Super Mario 64, which activate the hippocampus, seem to hold some potential in that respect,” West said in a statement.
The researchers say gaming might even be helpful in staving off Alzheimer’s disease.
Whether future studies bear that out, make no mistake: You’re never too old for gaming, and some of us are still too young to get the full benefit of it.