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Video gaming actually improves brain functions at any age

In recent research that challenges common criticisms of video gaming, findings suggest that gaming may actually improve brain functions by enhancing certain cognitive abilities.

Conducted by the Lero Esports Science Research Lab at the University of Limerick, the study sheds light on the potential cognitive advantages regular gamers hold over non-gamers, particularly in areas such as attention and memory.

Studying video gaming and brain health

The study meticulously analyzed the cognitive performance of 88 young adults, evenly divided between regular gamers — who engage in over seven hours of action-based video games weekly — and non-gamers.

Through a series of tasks designed to measure various cognitive functions, including reaction time, executive function, working memory, and visuospatial memory, researchers embarked on an exploration of how gaming habits might influence cognitive capabilities.

The tasks included a simple reaction time test, a complex activity requiring participants to switch responses between numbers and letters, and a maze task aimed at assessing visuospatial memory.

Leveling pp: Gamers outshine in cognitive tests

The findings were revealing: gamers outperformed their non-gaming counterparts, completing the number-letter switching task and the maze activity 12.7% and 17.4% faster, respectively.

Dr. Adam Toth of the University of Limerick and Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software, and co-author of the study, emphasized the significance of these findings.

Toth stated, “The regular playing of video games is often criticized and seen as unhealthy, but our research shows that gamers may enjoy some cognitive benefits over the wider population, particularly relating to attentiveness and memory.”

Echoing Dr. Toth’s sentiments, Dr. Mark Campbell, another contributor to the research, highlighted the broader implications of their findings.

“In line with previous work out of our lab, this research may have implications in sectors where cognitive performance is paramount, such as surgery, and air traffic control, where video game play could be encouraged to help develop the elite cognitive performance required,” Campbell explained.

Cognitive fatigue in gamers vs. non-gamers

Further exploring the realm of cognitive endurance, the study also delved into whether gamers are less susceptible to cognitive fatigue — a decline in performance over time due to sustained mental exertion — compared to non-gamers.

By assigning some participants an additional, concentration-intensive task before reevaluating them on the initial cognitive tests, researchers aimed to induce cognitive fatigue and observe its effects.

Interestingly, both gamers and non-gamers experienced a similar decline in performance, indicating no significant difference in their levels of cognitive fatigue.

A future where video gaming trains our brains

In summary, this somewhat surprising research challenges prevailing stereotypes about video gaming while opening new doors to potential applications in professional fields requiring high levels of cognitive function.

By demonstrating that regular engagement with video games can lead to quicker decision-making and problem-solving skills, it suggests a reevaluation of gaming’s role in cognitive development and professional training programs.

As the dialogue around video gaming and its effects continues to evolve, studies like this provide valuable insights into the positive aspects of gaming and its potential contributions to cognitive enhancement.

The full study was published in the British Journal of Psychology.


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