Video games have ‘beneficial effects’ on brain and boost decision-making, study says

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Going against what parents have argued for decades, scientists now say that people who play video games are better at quick decision-making when compared to people who don’t play them. The new study found that a key part of these players’ brains tend to light up while playing. The US-based researchers also suggested that playing video games could be used as one technique to help train people in perceptual decision-making.

This refers to the everyday practice where humans take in information through their various sense and use it to make decisions.

For example, a driver would be using perceptual decision-making when cruising along the road at night when they spot a dark object moving towards them.

Lead researcher Professor Mukeshwar Dhamala from Georgia State University said: “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.

“Our work provides some answers on that.

“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.”

For the study, participants lay down in an MRI scan machine with a mirror that allowed them to see a cue immediately followed by a display of moving dots.

The 47 participants were all university-aged and 28 of them were keen gamers while the other 19 did not play them.

They were asked to press a button in their left or right hand to indicate the direction the dots were moving in and not press a button if nothing was moving.

Video game players were found to be faster and more accurate with their responses.

Analysis of the brain scans revealed that the differences were linked to enhanced activity in parts of the gamers’ brains.

Even though there was no trade-off between speed and accuracy of responses, video game players were found to be better at both.

The researchers concluded: “These results indicate that video game playing potentially enhances several of the subprocesses for sensation, perception and mapping to action to improve decision-making skills.

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“These findings begin to illuminate how video game playing alters the brain in order to improve task performance and their potential implications for increasing task-specific activity.

“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 study’s lead author Tim Jordan, is one strong example of the benefits of gaming.

As a child, Mr Jordan had poor vision in one eye, for which he was asked to cover his good eye and play video games as a way of strengthening the vision in his bad one.

He credits it with helping him go from legally blind in that eye to being able to play lacrosse and paintball and work as a postdoctoral researcher.

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