Regular Gamers might be Better at Learning, Study Finds

A new study on cognitive performance during a learning task, conducted by a duo of neuropsychologists at the Rurh-Universität Bochum, Germany had found regular video game players to have an edge over their peers who either do not play video games at all or only play them occasionally.

In the study, 17 volunteers who, according to their own self-evaluation, played action-based video games for about 15 hours a week, and a control group consisting of the same number of non-gamers were given a modified version of the weather prediction task – a standard test for gauging learning ability.

After being shown a set of three cards bearing different symbols, the participants were asked to estimate whether the combination stood for sunny or rainy weather, and provided with instant feedback to facilitate pattern-recognition (acting as a stand-in for learning in general) in the next round.

During the entire study, all participants had their brain activity continuously monitored by way of a 3T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner.

Once the task was completed, the participants then had to fill out a questionnaire to help the research team figure out how much new knowledge they managed to accumulate.

Playing action-based video games on a regular basis might be beneficial for cognitive performance during learning activities. Image credit Jeshoots via, CC0 Public Domain.

Results showed that gamers did significantly better at making probabilistic calculations and estimating the likely weather pattern – the more uncertainty in the combination of symbols on the cards, the better the performance

Commenting on the study, first author Sabrina Schenk said gamers are likely better at “analysing a situation quickly to generate new knowledge and to categorise facts – especially in situations with high uncertainties”.

Looking at the brain scans of the intervention group, the researchers noticed greater activation in the hippocampus, the precuneus, the cingulate gyrus, and the middle temporal gyrus – a set of interconnected brain regions involved in semantic memory, visual imagery and cognitive control.

“We think that playing video games trains certain brain regions like the hippocampus,” explained Schenk. “That is not only important for young people, but also for older people; this is because changes in the hippocampus can lead to a decrease in memory performance. Maybe we can treat that with video games in the future.”

The study was published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.

Source: study abstract,

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