Research shows that video game players have enhanced brain activity and superior decision-making skills

According to new research, people who frequently play video games show superior sensorimotor decision-making skills and improved activity in key areas of the brain.

Research findings suggest that video games can be a useful tool for training cognitive decision-making.

Superior sensory decision-making skills and enhanced activity in key areas of the brain appear in frequent video game players compared to non-gamers. This is according to a recent study published in Neuroimage: Reports by Georgia State University researchers.

According to the authors, who used functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) in the research, the findings suggest that video games can be a useful tool for training perceptual decision-making.

“Video games are played by the vast majority of our youth for more than three hours each week, but the beneficial effects on decision-making abilities and the brain are completely unknown,” said principal investigator Mukesh Dhamala, associate professor at the Georgia State Department of State. Physics and Astronomy and the University’s Institute of Neuroscience.

“Our work provides some answers to that,” Dhamala said. “Video games can be used effectively for training – eg, effective decision-making training and therapeutic interventions – once relevant brain networks have been identified.”

Dhamala was an advisor to Tim Jordan, the paper’s lead author, who provided a personal example of how such research could be used to guide the use of video games for brain training.

Jordan with a Ph.D. He received his Ph.D. in Physics and Astronomy from Georgia State in 2021, and had double vision in one of his eyes as a child. As part of a research study when he was about 5 years old, he was asked to cover his healthy eye and play video games as a way to improve vision in the weak. Jordan credits his video game training with helping him go from legally blind in one eye to building a strong visual processing ability, eventually allowing him to play lacrosse and paintball. He is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

The Georgia State Research Project had 47 college-aged participants, with 28 classified as casual video game players and 19 as non-gamers.

The subjects were placed inside an FMRI machine with a mirror that allowed them to see a signal followed immediately by a display of moving points. Participants were asked to press a button in their right or left hand to indicate the direction in which the dots are moving, or to resist pressing either button if there was no directional movement.

According to the research results, people who played video games were faster and more accurate in their responses.

Analysis of brain scans generated by magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) found that the differences were related to enhanced activity in certain parts of the brain.

“These findings suggest that playing video games potentially enhances many sub-processes of sensation, perception, and action mapping to improve decision-making skills,” the authors wrote. “These findings begin to shed light on how video games affect the brain for improved task performance and the potential effects of increased task-specific activity.”

There was no trade-off between speed and[{” attribute=””>accuracy of response — the researchers point out that the video game players were better on both measures.

“This lack of speed-accuracy trade-off would indicate video game playing as a good candidate for cognitive training as it pertains to decision-making,” the authors wrote.

Reference: “Video Game Players Have Improved Decision-Making Abilities and Enhanced Brain Activities” by Timothy Jordan and Mukesh Dhamala, 22 June 2022, Neuroimage: Reports.
DOI: 10.1016/j.ynirp.2022.100112

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