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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Real-Life Benefit of Video Games

Video Games May Improve Visual Skills, Researchers Say
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 22, 2009 -- Regular video game users learn to process information faster and more accurately when they’re playing in virtual worlds and in real-life situations, a new study says.

Researchers say they found that avid players get faster in their games of choice, and also in unrelated laboratory tests of reaction time.

The study is published in the December issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Matthew Dye, PhD now of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and formerly at the University of Rochester, and colleagues say they reviewed existing literature on video gaming and found some surprising insights.

For example, they say they found that contrary to conventional wisdom that avid gamers become less accurate as their speed of play increases, players don’t lose accuracy and they get faster.

They say this likely is a result of gamers’ improving visual cognition with repeated playing of games.

Playing video games enhances performance on mental rotation skills, visual and spatial memory, and tasks requiring divided attention, say the researchers, including Shawn Green, PhD, now a post-doctoral associate at the University of Minnesota, and Daphne Bavelier, PhD, in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at Rochester.

Other reported insights - that training with video games may serve to reduce gender differences in visual and spatial processing and thwart some of the cognitive declines that come with aging.

“In many everyday situations, speed is of the essence,” the authors write. “However, fast decisions typically mean more mistakes.”

After reviewing existing literature on gaming, they conclude that there is evidence that “the very act of playing action video games” increases speed of play and accuracy.

“Video gaming may therefore provide an efficient training regimen to induce a general speeding of perceptual reaction times without decreases in accuracy of performance,” the authors say.

As the gamers got faster, they maintained their accuracy in lab testing of reaction times, the authors say.

Contemporary examples of games mentioned in the study include God of War, Halo, Unreal Tournament, Grand Theft Auto, and Call of Duty, all of which require “rapid processing of sensory information and prompt action, forcing players to [make] decisions and execute responses at a far greater pace than is typical in everyday life.”

They say more studies of speed and accuracy on video games “will certainly be promising avenue of research” in the future.

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