Playing Super Mario 64 increases your brain’s hippocampal grey matter

by Martin Watts, 9 December 2017

Super Mario 64 face attract screen

Playing Super Mario 64 increases hippocampal grey matter in older adults according to a recent study published in the academic journal PLOS ONE (Public Library of Science).

The study measured the impact of the classic 3D platforming game on grey matter in the hippocampus, cerebellum and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of older adults, who were aged 55 to 75. The hippocampus is primarily associated with memory (long-term memory, in particular), and maintaining grey matter within it is important for healthy cognition.

The people who partook in the study were randomised into three groups: a video game experimental group (VID), an active control group that took a series of self-directed, computerized music lessons (MUS), and a no-contact control group did not engage in any intervention (CON). The VID group undertook video game training over a period of 6 months, during which time they presumably played a lot of Super Mario 64.

Super Mario 64, a game shown to increase the hippocampal grey matter in the brains of older adults

After this testing period, the study found that only the VID group saw a significant increase in grey matter within the hippocampus. The group also showed a growth in the cerebellum, a part of your brain that contributes to coordination, precision, and accurate timing – Super Mario 64 certainly requires all these things.

You can read the full research article on the PLOS ONE website.

Released in 1996, Super Mario 64 was a launch title for the Nintendo 64. It was one of the first games to feature fully analog controls, giving players an incredible range and precision of movement that hadn’t been done before. The game’s non-linear and open design redefined gaming, and considerably influenced the wider games industry and the development of future games.