Frequent Video Game Players Show Superior Decision-Making Skills and Improved Brain Activity

Frequent video game gamers show superior sensorimotor decision-making skills and increased activity in key brain regions compared to non-gamers, according to a recent study by researchers at Georgia State University.

The authors, who used functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) in the study, said the findings suggest video games could be a useful tool for perceptual decision-making training.

Video games are played by the overwhelming majority of our young people for more than three hours a week, but the beneficial effects on decision-making skills and the brain are not exactly known.

Mukesh Dhamala, Principal Investigator, Associate Professor in the Georgia State Department of Physics and Astronomy and the University’s Neuroscience Institute

“Our work provides answers to this,” Dhamala said. “Video gaming can be used effectively for training – for example, training in effective decision-making and therapeutic interventions – once the relevant brain networks are identified.”

Dhamala was an advisor to Tim Jordan, the paper’s lead author, who offered a personal example of how such research could shed light on the use of video games to train the brain.

Jordan, who earned a Ph.D. in Physics and Astronomy from Georgia State in 2021, had weak vision in one eye as a child. As part of a research study when he was about 5 years old, he was asked to cover his good eye and play video games in order to strengthen the eyesight of the weak. Jordan credits video game training with helping him transition from a legally blind eye to strong visual processing skills, eventually enabling him to play lacrosse and paintball. He is now a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA.

The Georgia State research project involved 47 college-aged participants, 28 of whom were classified as regular video game players and 19 as non-gamers.

The subjects lay inside an FMRI machine with a mirror that allowed them to see a signal immediately followed by a display of moving dots. Participants had to press a button in their right or left hand to indicate the direction the dots were moving, or resist pressing either button if there was no directional movement .

The study found that video game players were faster and more accurate in their responses.

Analysis of the resulting brain scans revealed that the differences correlated with increased activity in certain parts of the brain.

“These findings indicate that video gaming potentially enhances several of the sensation, perception, and action-matching subprocesses to improve decision-making skills,” the authors wrote. “These findings are beginning to shed light on how video gaming alters the brain to improve task performance and their potential implications for increasing task-specific activity.”

The study also notes that there was no trade-off between speed and accuracy of response -; video game players were better on both measures.

“This lack of speed-accuracy trade-off would indicate that video gaming is a good candidate for cognitive training with respect to decision-making,” the authors wrote.


Journal reference:

Jordan, T & Dhamala, M., (2022) Video game players have improved decision-making skills and brain activity. NeuroImage.

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