Next time your parents or spouse scolds you about your video game habits, just tell them you’re exercising your brain.
According to a new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, playing action titles can improve not only those skills taught in the game, but also general learning capabilities.
“Prior research by our group and others has shown that action gamers excel at many tasks. In this new study, we show they excel because they are better learners,” Daphne Bavelier, a research professor in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, said in a statement.
“And they become better learners,” she said, “by playing the fast-paced action games.”
Sure, puzzles and word games are great for training your mind, but action titles actually help nourish our brains.
As Bavelier explained, the brain is constantly building new templates of the world, in order to sharpen its prediction skills—whether listening to a conversation, driving, or even performing surgery. “The better the template, the better the performance,” she said. “And now we know playing action video game actually fosters better templates.”
In one part of the research phase, a set of participants was tasked with playing 50 hours of Call of Duty over the course of nine weeks; the other half played 50 hours of The Sims for the same time.
Then, based on a test completed before and after the “training” period, the researchers found that action game players did in fact improve their templates. The control group, meanwhile, probably spent many sleepless nights worrying about their animated characters’ energy and excrement levels.
“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,” Bavelier said. “Instead, they developed better templates for the task much, much faster, showing an accelerated learning curve.”
The effects, according to the study, are permanent. So even if you binge on Grand Theft Auto and Assassin’s Creed for the winter, your brain will continue to thank you later.
Bavelier’s team is still investigating which characteristics in action games are key to boosting players’ learning.
“Games other than action video games may be able to have the same effect,” she said. “They may need to be fast-paced, and require the player to divide his or her attention, and make predictions at different time scales.”
Sorry—Candy Crush Saga probably won’t cut it.
Source: PC Mag
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