A recent study by Georgia State University researchers found that video gamers (video game players) have improved sensorimotor decision-making abilities and increased brain activity compared to non-players.

The study’s authors, who used functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), said the results point to the possibility of using video games as a training aid for perceptual decision-making. The majority of our youth play video games for more than three hours per week, but the positive effects on cognition and decision-making are still unclear, according to the study’s lead author, associate professor Mukesh Dhamala of Georgia State University‘s Department of Physics and Astronomy and Neuroscience Institute. Dhamala said: “Our work provides some answers on that. 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.”

Video gamers may even improve their vision

Tim Jordan, the paper’s lead author, who provided a personal example of how such study could guide the use of video games for brain training, was advised by Dhamala. Jordan, who graduated from Georgia State University in 2021 with a Ph.D. in physics and astronomy, was born with poor vision in one eye. He was asked to cover his good eye and play video games as part of a research project when he was around 5 to improve the eyesight in the weak eye. Jordan attributes his ability to move from being legally blind in one eye to developing a great capacity for visual processing, which finally allowed him to play lacrosse and paintball. He is currently a UCLA postdoctoral researcher.

Gaming also improves speed and accuracy

There were 47 college-aged participants in the Georgia State study, of whom 28 were classified as frequent video game players and 19 as non-players. The participants lay inside a FMRI machine equipped with a mirror so they could view a cue followed by a display of moving dots. In order to identify the direction the dots were moving, participants were asked to click a button in either their right or left hand. If there was no directional movement, they were instructed to avoid from touching either button.

According to the study, people who play video games respond more quickly and accurately.

Following a review of the resulting brain scans, it was discovered that the variations were associated to more active regions of the brain. These results suggest that playing video games may strengthen a number of the subprocesses for feeling, perception, and mapping to action to enhance decision-making abilities, according to the authors. These results “start to provide light on how playing video games changes the brain to enhance task performance and its potential implications for enhancing task-specific activity.” The study also points out that there was no trade-off between response time and accuracy; video game players performed higher on both counts. The scientists concluded that playing video games is a good option for cognitive training with regard to decision-making because there is no speed-accuracy trade-off.

The study was written and published in the journal Neuroimage

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