How Video Games Can Boost Your Brain Power

There was a time, not so long ago, where it was considering mind-dulling for you to stay stuck to your computer or television screen playing video games. In every household with a video game console, parents would remind their children that if they didn’t relax with the video games, their brains would turn to mush. Well…the tables have turned, apparently, and at the worst time possible, because i’m not a kid anymore. Now, the conventional wisdom has changed, credited mainly to a recent study published this month. The study found that, on the contrary, video games don’t dull your mind. Instead, playing fast-paced action video games can actually improve learning cognition.

According to the study, people that play games like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Halo, are better able to multitask, perform cognitive tasks (such as mentally repositioning or reorienting objects), focus, and retain information better than non-players, according to Daphne Bavelier, co-author of the study, and a research professor of  brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester and the University of Geneva. Playing these types of video games can contribute to improvement in vision. What it comes down to is our brain’s ability to model the future.

“Our brains keep predicting what will come next — whether when listening to a conversation, driving, or even preforming surgery,” Bavelier said in a news release. “In order to sharpen its prediction skills, our brains constantly build models, or ‘templates,’ of the world. The better the template, the better the performance. And now we know playing action video game actually fosters better templates.”

Bavelier’s research team, in order to measure the effects of game playing on brain function, paid a group of college students $8 an hour to log 50 hours of gameplay over the course of nine weeks. In order to test comparative effects, they were instructed to play two contrasting types of games: one with a high degree of action and movement (“Call of Duty” and “Unreal Tournament 2004″), and ones with minimal action (“The Sims 2″ and “Restaurant Empire”).

According to the news release, the key for researchers was determining exactly how quickly action video gamers were able to build and amend templates compared to gamers that were playing more slow paced games. Not only were they able to build templates more quickly, but they were able to do it while engaged in a separate activity altogether.

“When they began the perceptual learning task, action video gamers were indistinguishable from non-action gamers; they didn’t come to the task with a better template,” said Bavelier. “Instead, they developed better templates for the task, much, much faster showing an accelerated learning curve.”

After the “training” had ended, it became clear that the action video game playing participants didn’t immediately lose their new-found abilities. A year later, the research team re-tested the participants, and found they had retained their ability to build templates, and again outperformed other participants. But, why?

“The brain has not just one neuron, but networks of neurons talking to each other,” Bavelier told Bloomberg. “During the task, they were changing their connectivity on the fly to match the task at hand. They knew what was important to pay attention to and what was noise and distraction, and they could suppress distractions.”

Bavalier has clarified that the results of this study shouldn’t encourage video game binging, or be an excuse to lounge in front of the television for hours a day. Avoiding homework to play video games isn’t the right way to approach using video games as a means to improve cognitive function.

See more from Bavelier in the accompanied TED Talk:

from Doug MacFaddin | Video Games Page


Published by: Doug MacFaddin

Douglas Willis MacFaddin was born June 16, 1961 in the Miamisburg Hospital to Patricia Ann MacFaddin and Richard Willis MacFaddin. My mother’s maiden name is Morrison and she is the youngest of seven children who were raised in Lycippus, PA. My father was the second of four children and was a twin. He was raised in the town of Viola, DE. At the time of my birth, my father worked at the Mound Laboratories in Miamisburg, Ohio in research. Mound was an Atomic Energy Commission facility for nuclear weapon research during the Cold War. My mother made a home for our family. My father passed away in 1991 and my mother is currently living in Avon, CT. Doug MacFaddin is the oldest of five children (Doug, R. Stuart, Anne Marie, Megan and Mary (Heather)). I lived in Ohio for two years, spent the next seven years in Murrysville, PA (outside of Pittsburgh), moved to Little Silver, NJ and relocated my senior year in high school to Avon, CT. My four siblings currently live with their families in Avon, CT and are members of St. Ann’s Church. I attended Mother of Sorrows School in Murrysville, PA. In NJ, I attended Little Silver Point Road School, Markham Place School and Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) in Lincroft, NJ for three years. My senior year, I attended Avon High School and I then spent the next four years at Union College, Schenectady, NY. I received a BS in Industrial Economics and graduated in June 1983. While at Salomon Brothers, I was asked to attend a two-week seminar for Public Finance at the University of Michigan in 1986. In Little Silver, I was involved in Troop 126 where I achieved the rank of Life Scout and was both a Patrol Leader and a Senior Patrol Leader. I also was an alter boy at St. James Catholic Church and spent summers a the Ship Ahoy Beach Club in Seabright, NJ and caddying at the Rumson Country Club. At Christian Brothers Academy, I wrestled for the varsity squad for three years. I took second in the districts my junior year and went on to the regionals. I also ran on their cross country team freshman year and was part of the CBA Colt team that hasn’t lost a duel meet since 1973. My senior year at Avon, I won the wrestling States (S). I went on to wrestle at Union College and qualified for the Div III nationals twice (1981, 1982) and was co-captain both years. My senior year at Avon, CT, I also won the States (S) in pole vaulting. It was the first time Avon High School had a state champ in two sports in the same year. During my four years, I earned nine varsity letters between wrestling, track and football. In 1979, I was accepted into The National Honor & Merit Scholars Society. Upon graduating from Union College, I accepted a position at Salomon Brothers Inc in August 1983. I was an analyst in their Public Finance department at One New York Plaza. I lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn and spent the next four years working at Salomon Brothers. As a result of Black Monday, October 19, 1987 the Public Finance Department of Salomon Brothers was jettisoned to conserve capital. By November 1, 1987, I was working at Dean Witter Reynolds in the new Public Finance Department made up of many of my former Salomon Brother’s colleagues. The new Department was located on the 57th floor of 2 World Trade Center.

Categories UncategorizedTagsLeave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s