July 28, 2022 — Playing action video games appears to boost brain activity and decision-making abilities.
In a paired study brain imagery with a decision-making task, students who regularly play video games made faster and more accurate decisions than their peers who rarely play video games.
“Video games are played by the overwhelming majority of our young people for more than 3 hours per week, but the beneficial effects on decision-making skills and the brain are not exactly known,” said lead researcher Mukesh Dhamala, PhD, from Georgia State University Neuroscience. Institute, said in a press release.
The new study is beginning to shed light on how video gaming can modify the brain to improve task performance, said Dhamala and GSU co-investigator Timothy Jordan, PhD.
The researchers recruited 47 college students: 28 of them said they had played action video games for at least 5 hours a week over the past 2 years, and 19 non-gamers who averaged less than a hour per week.
During brain imaging, they were given a computerized decision-making task. They were asked to press a button in their right or left hand to indicate the direction the dots were moving or to resist pressing either button if there was no movement.
Video gamers were faster and more accurate in their responses than non-gamers. The players also had higher activity in certain parts of the brain.
“It’s never been shown before,” say Dhamala and Jordan.
Previous brain imaging studies have suggested that video games may have benefits on attention, visual perception and memory, but a clear relationship between behavior and the brain and effects on decision-making processes made default.
Jordan was not surprised by the results of the study.
As a child he had weaknesses vision in one eye. As part of a research study when he was about 5 years old, he covered his good eye and played video games to boost vision for the weak.
Jordan credits training in video games with helping him develop a strong ability in his brain to process what he saw, eventually enabling him to play lacrosse and paintball.
Stephen Faraone, PhD, of the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, isn’t surprised by the results either.
“Playing video games can alter the brain in ways that improve certain cognitive abilities,” he says., after seeing the results.
The caveat, he says, is that no well-designed clinical trial has shown that these changes in the brain lead to improvements in real-world skills, like academic performance.
It’s also unclear how long it takes to practice with video games to learn new decision-making skills.
“As with all other things, it should be done in moderation. Playing too much can sometimes lead to addiction, like anything that affects our brains, especially the developing brains of young people,” say Dhamala and Jordan.