Gaming can improve your brain power

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Video games used to be viewed as the enemy by many parents; the activity that would drain their children’s creativity and make them into couch potato zombies. However, kids could have some scientific research on their sides next time their parents tell them to ‘turn off that game and go and do something more wholesome instead’. Researchers at Rochester University have found that playing video games could actually improve your real-world learning abilities by making it easier for your brain to anticipate what will happen next.

These days, gamers aren’t just kids on the sofa, of course. With the huge presence of online gaming sites such as 32red, Virgin Games and Gala casino, there are millions of people now playing casino games like 32red roulette or poker, as well as people playing puzzler games on their mobiles – such as WordFeud and Monuments.

But what the researchers at Rochester were particularly interested in was how playing action or shooter games affected the brain’s ability to learn. They were most interested in investigating the ability of the human brain to anticipate what is going to happen in different situations. They refer to the brain as having a set of ‘templates of the world’ – way to deal with a range of situations including things like assessing road traffic, knowing which way a conversation will turn, and more complicated scenarios, like performing a surgical operation.

The research team compared the visual performances of a group, some of whom played action video games and some of whom did not. The results showed a higher performance from the action gamers, whose brains used the most appropriate template for the task assigned to them. So, all that time you spend playing Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty, keeping a watchful eye out for enemies in every direction, can actually help you to deal with real life situations too.

Another aspect that interested the research team was whether people with better templates were naturally drawn to play video games that were action-based, or whether playing those types of games resulted in people having better templates. Was it a chicken and egg situation, in other words? This is where the non-gamers came into the research. They were given a pattern discrimination task to complete before playing a video game. Then half of them played a shooter game such as Call of Duty while the others played a non-action game such as Virtual Families. They were then all given another pattern discrimination task to complete. On the second pattern task, those who had played the shooter or action game were able to construct and better tweak templates as they completed it – demonstrating they had better learning skills.

The researchers concluded that by playing action games people showed a quicker ability to learn and develop better templates for the task given; it wasn’t that they had the better template to begin with. So the new study shows that action games can assist people to become better learners. Even a year on from the initial testing, the action game players continued to perform at a higher level than the people who played non-action games. It is thought that the key to improving brain function is that a player has to divide their attention at a fast pace, making predictions on different time scales.

That’s not to say, though, that it’s only the action or shooter games that will develop your learning ability. However, we’ll have to wait for further research to demonstrate that all video gaming can be beneficial for your brain power.

  1. Robert Brown says:

    Nice Update! I wish if the research were conducted at the time I was a kid as it would have helped me in convincing my parents that video games are not meant for children for no reason. Anyways I will show this article to my wife who always keeps nagging about my gambling habit.