DARPA-funded study sheds light on video gamers’ advantage

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Fellow video game fanatics, good news – those long hours spent in front of the game console may actually be beneficial.

Contrary to popular belief, intensive gamers have higher cognitive functioning in some areas than nongamers. Gamers not only train their hands to manipulate the controller more efficiently; they also train their brain to make better use of visual stimuli, according to a study funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Homeland Security Department and Nike, Inc.

The Duke University study pooled 125 students who were either nongamers or intensive gamers. Each participant was run through a visual sensory memory task, which required them to watch as a screen flashed a circular grouping of eight letters for one-tenth of a second. After a short pause, ranging from 13 milliseconds to 2.5 seconds, an arrow appeared, pointing to one area on the circle where a letter had been. Participants were then required to identify which letter previously occupied that spot on the circle.

Though both groups quickly forgot the letters, for every time interval, avid video gamers outperformed their nongaming counterparts.

As shown by earlier research, gamers, especially ones who play action video games, are able to respond more quickly to visual stimuli and can keep track of more items than those who do not play video games.

The study looked at three possible reasons why gamers might be more adept at making probabilistic inferences than nongamers: gamers see better, they retain visual memory longer or they have superior decision-making skills.

Study results show it is a combination of seeing better and having superior decision-making skills that gives gamers an advantage on such tests. Though additional data from brainwaves and MRI imagery is required, the study sheds light on a novel way to improve cognitive functioning – useful for both the public and private sector.

DARPA, recognizing the power of the video game, created the ENGAGE program to develop interactive game-based technologies for prekindergarten through grade three students. Prototypes developed through ENGAGE seek to inspire the next generation of leaders by honing their science, technology, engineering and math skills.

The ENGAGE program aims to produce game-based teaching tools as well as provide insight into teaching techniques for future products and classroom STEM learning.

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Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Departments, Tech
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