OCT 16, 2017 5:33 AM PDT

Are Gamers Smarter?

Video games and the brain will always be a hotly debated topic. While some studies say they can desensitize players to real-world violence and cause brain damage and cognitive delays, other studies suggest that certain games help develop better decision-making skills.

There are rehab centers that use some games for stroke patients in recovery, and there have been studies that suggest patients with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia can benefit from gaming. Recent research from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum is making headlines for its suggestion that people who play video games on a regular basis can learn faster than those who do not.

The study was small, involving 17 volunteers who reported that they played computer and console video games for longer than 15 hours per week. Those participants were tested against a control group of 17 individuals who did not play video games. The cognitive testing used in the study is known as the “Weather prediction test” though it doesn’t involve trying to predict sunshine or storms. The test measures how well someone can learn to understand probability.

The game is played by researchers showing participants of a combination of three cards, each with a different symbol. They are then asked to estimate what the weather will be based on the symbols, and they are given feedback on the accuracy of their prediction. After a few rounds of this, participants learned that certain combinations of symbols were an indicator of sun and other combos indicated rain. At the same time as they were playing the game, study volunteers were undergoing MRI scans to record electrical activity in different regions of the brain.

To judge how well the test subjects had retained the material and the method of learning it, they were asked to fill out questionnaires after finishing the task that measured how much knowledge they had acquired as a result of the test.  The results showed that video gamers had a significantly better ability than non-players in predicting the “weather” based on the card combinations. Even when the combinations signaled a higher level of uncertainty in weather outcome (for example, a combination that indicated a 60% chance of rain and 40% chance of sun), the gamers were still better at predicting the outcome.

The gamers results on the questionnaires were also indicative of a larger volume of knowledge being acquired as compared to the control group who were not regular game players. First author Sabrina Schenk explained, “Our study shows that gamers are better in analysing a situation quickly, to generate new knowledge and to categorise facts -- especially in situations with high uncertainties. We think that playing video games trains certain brain regions like the hippocampus. 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."

Schenk also stated that the MRI scans showed a higher level of activity in the hippocampus of the gamers’ brains. The hippocampus is an area associated with memory and learning and is frequently the target of studies involving memory loss, dementia, and cognitive function. The video below has more information about the study and what it could mean for future research.

Sources: Ruhr-Universität Bochum, NerdReactor.com, Behavioral Brain Research via Science Direct

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
NOV 17, 2019
Neuroscience
NOV 17, 2019
Intelligence, Not Mindset, Predicts Learning Ability
New research has found that intelligence may play more of a role in a person’s ability to learn to play the piano than believing in oneself or having...
NOV 25, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
NOV 25, 2019
Discovery of mechanism behind Alexander disease may lead to enhanced drug development
Researchers have long known that the cause behind Alexander disease is a genetic culprit—mainly a mutation leading to the production of a defective p...
DEC 09, 2019
Neuroscience
DEC 09, 2019
Russian Cows Use VR Headsets to Increase Milk Production
Harsh weather conditions, particularly those found during winter months, are known to lead to a decrease in milk production among cows. To tackle this, Rus...
DEC 16, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 16, 2019
IV Treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury
Scientists are now using exosomes intravenously as a method of cell-to-cell technology for treating patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI). They discov...
DEC 19, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 19, 2019
Upcoming Psychedelic Cure for Addiction Derived from African Shrub
Every year, almost 70,000 people die from an overdose in the US. Now, a company called MindMed is testing a compound derived from ibogaine, a West African ...
FEB 26, 2020
Neuroscience
FEB 26, 2020
Why Alzheimer's may be a Sleep Disorder
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia in which amyloid-beta protein builds up in the brain, killing off surrounding neurons and causing cognitive...
Loading Comments...