Research Shows Video Game Players Have Improved Brain Activity and Superior Decision-Making Skills

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

The research results suggest that video games could be a useful tool for perceptual decision-making training.

Superior sensorimotor decision-making skills and increased activity in key brain regions are demonstrated in frequent video game gamers compared to non-gamers. This is according to a recent study published in Neuroimage: Reports by researchers at Georgia State University.

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

“Video games are played by the overwhelming majority of our young people for more than three hours a week, but the beneficial effects on decision-making skills and the brain are not exactly known,” said lead researcher Mukesh Dhamala, associate professor in the Department of Georgia. Physics and Astronomy and the University’s Institute of Neuroscience.

“Our work provides answers to this,” Dhamala said. “Video gaming can be used effectively for training – for example, training in effective decision-making and therapeutic interventions – once the relevant brain networks are identified.”

Dhamala was an advisor to Tim Jordan, the paper’s lead author, who offered a personal example of how such research could shed light on the use of video games to train the brain.

Jordan, who earned a Ph.D. in Physics and Astronomy from Georgia State in 2021, had weak vision in one eye as a child. As part of a research study when he was about 5 years old, he was asked to cover his good eye and play video games in order to strengthen the eyesight of the weak. Jordan credits video game training with helping him transition from a legally blind eye to strong visual processing skills, eventually enabling 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 involved 47 college-aged participants, 28 of whom were classified as regular video game players and 19 as non-gamers.

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

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

Analysis of the resulting FMRI brain scans revealed that the differences correlated with increased activity in certain parts of the brain.

“These findings indicate that video gaming potentially enhances several of the sensation, perception, and action-matching subprocesses to improve decision-making skills,” the authors wrote. “These findings begin to shed light on how video gaming alters the brain to improve task performance and their potential implications for increasing task-specific activity.”

There was no compromise 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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