Playing Super Mario 64 Increases Brain Health, So Fire Up That Old N64

Photo: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers (Getty).

For years we’ve been told that video games rot our brains. Every moment we’ve spent gaming — from saving Princess Toadstool to being the last man standing in Call of Duty — we’re told has been a complete waste of time and we should find better ways to exercise our brains.

But what those critics didn’t understand is that gaming has become a whole different animal through the decades. Things like eSports have risen to become a legitimate way of cashing checks for gaming wizardry, while others have found themselves freaking out when breaking world records playing the N64 classic GoldenEye 007like this guy.

Now there’s another reason why gaming is truly a blessing for mankind: playing Super Mario 64 is good for your head.

Playing Super Mario 64 Increases Brain Health

In a study published on Plos One, playing 3D games such as the 1996 adventure featuring Mario has shown positive results for improved memory and increased grey matter in the brain. These findings can perhaps help in treatment of serious diseases like Alzheimer’s, giving us hope for the future as we stomp on turtle shells and walking mushrooms.

For the study, researchers took 33 subjects between the ages of 55 to 74 and split them into three groups. One group played Super Mario 64, another took piano lessons, and a third did neither. The results showed the first group had improved short-term memory after playing for at least 30 minutes, five days a week for six months straight. They also had increased grey matter in the cerebellum and hippocampus. These are awesome findings, especially if you’ve played video games this much. And if you’re reading this website, we’re pretty sure you have.

The piano lesson group also had positive results, showing increased grey matter in their dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and cerebellum, but the group that did neither activity showed atrophy in various areas of the brain. Yikes! I’m betting they all should go the way of retro gaming if they want to stay sharp in the head.

This all seems like a great study, and I want to go ahead and volunteer my services for, you know, science and stuff. Where do I sign up?

h/t Big Think

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