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Study Shows Video Game Players Have Enhanced Brain Activity

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A recent study by a team of researchers at Georgia State University demonstrates how frequent video game players show superior sensorimotor decision-making skills and enhanced brain activity in certain regions when compared to non-players. 

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) in the new study and said it could suggest that video games are a useful tool for training in perceptual decision-making. 

Video Game Playing

Mukesh Dhamala is lead researcher and associate professor in Georgia State’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Neuroscience Institute. 

“Video games are played by the overwhelming majority of our youth more than three hours every week, but the beneficial effects on decision-making abilities and the brain are not exactly known,” said Dhamala. 

“Our work provides some answers on that,” Dhamala continued. “Video game playing can effectively be used for training — for example, decision-making efficiency training and therapeutic interventions — once the relevant brain networks are identified.”

Training the Human Brain

Tim Jordan is the lead author of the research, and he offered a personal story on how the new research could inform the use of video games for training the human brain. 

Jordan had weak vision in one eye when he was a child, and at the age of 5, he participated in a research study where he was asked to cover his good eye and play video games to strengthen the vision in the weak one. Jordan believes video games helped him transition from being legally blind in one eye to having a strong capacity for visual processing, which enabled him to eventually play sports. Jordan is now a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA. 

The new research project involved 47 college-age participants, with 28 categorized as regular video game players. 19 of the participants were categorized as non-players. 

The participants laid inside an FMRI machine with a mirror that enabled them to see a cue immediately followed by a display of moving dots. They were then asked to press a button in their right or left hand to indicate the direction the dots were moving, or press no button if they didn’t detect any directional movement. 

The results showed that video game players were faster and more accurate at detecting this movement, and analysis of the resulting brain scans found that differentiation was correlated with enhanced brain activity in certain regions of the brain. 

“These results indicate that video game playing potentially enhances several of the subprocesses for sensation, perception and mapping to action to improve decision-making skills,” the authors wrote. “These findings begin to illuminate how video game playing alters the brain in order to improve task performance and their potential implications for increasing task-specific activity.”

The study also found that there was no trade-off between speed and accuracy of response. 

“This lack of speed-accuracy trade-off would indicate video game playing as a good candidate for cognitive training as it pertains to decision-making,” the authors concluded.

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