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article imagePlaying action video games heightens visual sensitivity

By Kathleen Blanchard     Jun 15, 2013 in Science
Research suggests people who spend time playing action video games develop visual skills that help them process what they are seeing and track objects, contrast and movement more quickly than non-gamers.
The large new study shows action video games improve players' visual sensitivity, but not memory.
Duke University scientist investigated how action video games change the brain to advance visual skills.
Applebaum, who is an Assistant Professor, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine studies brain behavior related to visual recognition.
Even with limited information, Appelbaum said gamers have the ability to quickly make "probabilistic inferences" about what will happen next from certain visual indicators.
"Gamers see the world differently,” Applebaum explains in a press release. "They are able to extract more information from a visual scene.”
The more immersed they become in the virtual world, the better their visual skills become, he says.
Action video games have been shown in the past to lead to enhanced motor skills.
The Duke researchers wanted to pinpoint the brain mechanisms involved in advanced skills seen among video gamers, compared to non-gamers.
For the study, the scientists recruited 125 participants who either played video games intensively or not at all.
The participants underwent tests that involved eight letters flashing on a screen for one-tenth of a second.
The participants then received a prompt asking them to identify the letter that had previously appeared in a circle. The time between when the letters flashed and the prompt appeared varied with each test.
The results showed video gamers consistently beat non-gamers. The better performance led the researchers to conclude playing action game boosts the brain’s ability to gather information quickly.
In the study, there was no difference in memory. Non-gamers were able to identify where the letters had been, meaning there was no difference in memory decay between the two groups. It appears gamers have an edge because they start with more information.
The researchers plan more studies using MRIs when gamers are in action to find out what areas of the brain are being trained. The finding suggests playing action video games boosts visual sensitivity but not memory. The result is improved ability to make decisions from visual input.
More about action video games, Duke university, Greg Appelbaum, Study
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