Gamers Outperform Non-Gamers in Some Learning Tasks

In a new German study which pitted video gamers against non-gamers in a learning test, gamers performed significantly better and exhibited increased activity in brain regions associated with learning.

Specifically, the gamers were better at analyzing a situation quickly in order to generate new knowledge and categorize facts, particularly in situations with high uncertainties.

Neuropsychologists at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum studied 17 volunteers who had reported that they played action-based games on the computer or a console for more than 15 hours a week. The control group involved 17 participants who reported that they did not play video games on a regular basis.

Both groups completed the so-called weather prediction task, a well-established test designed to investigate the learning of probabilities. As the participants played the games, the researchers simultaneously recorded their brain activity via magnetic resonance imaging.

The volunteers were shown a combination of three cue cards with different symbols. They were then asked to estimate whether the card combination predicted sun or rain; they were given immediate feedback on whether or not their choice was correct.

Thus, the participants gradually learned on the basis of the feedback which card combination stands for which weather prediction. The combinations were thereby associated with higher or lower probabilities for sun and rain.

After completing the task, the volunteers completed a questionnaire to measure their acquired knowledge about the cue card combinations.

The findings show that the gamers were notably better in combining the cue cards with the weather predictions than the control group. They performed even better with cue card combinations that had a high uncertainty such as a combination that predicted 60 percent rain and 40 percent sunshine.

In addition, the analysis of the questionnaire showed that the gamers had acquired more knowledge about the meaning of the card combinations than did the control group.

“Our study shows that gamers are better in analyzing a situation quickly, to generate new knowledge and to categorize facts, especially in situations with high uncertainties,” said first author Sabrina Schenk.

This particular type of learning is associated with increased activity in the hippocampus, a brain region that plays a key role in learning and memory. “We think that playing video games trains certain brain regions like the hippocampus,” said Schenk.

“That is not only important for young people, but also for older people — this is because changes in the hippocampus can lead to a decrease in memory performance. Maybe we can treat that with video games in the future.”

The new findings are published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.

Source: Ruhr-Universität Bochum