Are Video Games Making You Smarter?
Gaming is emerging as a popular pastime in many parts of the world. New research sheds light on how indulging in your favourite video game might be improving your decision-making skills.
The news is saturated with op-eds detailing how video games are making children and young adults more aggressive and depressed, disrupting their circadian rhythm, and contributing to a range of physiological problems in developmental ages.
However, new research by Georgia State University offers a divergent, new angle on how gaming influences our minds.
In a study, the sensorimotor decision-making skills of 28 regular and 19 non-player participants were put to test followed by a comparative analysis of the results.
Placed in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, the participants were studied as they attempted a gamified test. A mirror oriented to the direction of the college-age subjects allowed them to view visual cues that would indicate the direction of the movement of dots that followed immediately after. The task for the participants was simple—they must press a button to their left or right to indicate the direction of the motion of dots, or abstain from pressing either if they observed no movement.
The research found that habitual players responded faster and with greater precision than the ones who did not play video games at all—correlating with enhanced nervous activity in certain regions of the brain.
“Video games are played by the overwhelming majority of our youth more than three hours every week, but the beneficial effects on decision-making abilities and the brain are not exactly known,” explained the second author of the study, Mukesh Dhamala.
Dhamala believes that there is potential for video games to be used in honing the decision-making skills of individuals, and in the delivery of therapy.
“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”, theorizes the associate professor of physics and astronomy at the university.
As exciting as they may be, the findings of the research are not particularly confounding. Previous studies have linked habitual gaming with improved cognitive abilities, visuospatial skills, concentration, problem-solving skills, multitasking abilities and hand-to-eye coordination.
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