A recent study carried out by researchers at Georgia Sate University found that young people who play video games often demonstrate improved decision-making skills and function better in key brain regions compared to non-gamers.
“Video games are played by the overwhelming majority of our youth for more than three hours a week, but the beneficial effects on decision-making skills and the brain were not exactly known,” researcher Mukesh Dhamala said in a statement.
He added: “Our work provides some answers on this. Video game play can effectively be used for training – for example, in decision-making efficiency and therapeutic interventions – once the relevant brain networks are identified.”
The study’s lead author, Tim Jordan, says the incentive to carry out the research came from a childhood experience. He had poor vision in one eye and participated in a study that instructed him to cover his good eye while playing video games to strengthen the vision of the weak.
Jordan believes this training helped him go from being legally blind in one eye to someone with strong visual processing capabilities. The experience allowed him to play lacrosse – a team sport that uses a club with a net at the end – and paintball and provided stimulus and a basis for the study published in recent days.
The survey included 47 college-age participants, 28 of them regular video game players and 19 non-gamers. The members were placed in an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) machine with a mirror that displayed moving points.
The youths had to press a button on their right or left hand to indicate the direction in which the points were moving, or not press them to indicate that they were not moving.
In the end, the researchers found that video game players were faster and more accurate in their responses. What’s more, analysis of brain scans showed that these benefits were associated with increased activity in certain parts of the brain.
“These results reveal that video game play potentially improves several of the sensation, perception, and mapping-to-action subprocesses to increase decision-making skills,” the authors wrote in a statement.
The study also showed that there was no difference between speed and response accuracy – players were better at both traits.
“These findings begin to shed light on how video game play alters the brain to improve task performance and its possible implications for increasing task-specific activity,” the authors stated.
The results suggest that video games can be an ally for learning and used as training for perceptive decision making – a stage in which information is processed to guide the choice.
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