Playing video games improves brain activity, decision making

Playing video games is a popular activity that provides a sensory-rich, cognitively stimulating environment that can lead to cognitive benefits in those who play frequently. Exactly how they modify our brains to achieve these mental benefits is not yet clear.

A new study provides some answers to this. The study by researchers at Georgia State University suggests that frequent video game players show superior sensorimotor decision-making abilities and increased activity in key brain regions compared to non-gamers.

In a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment, scientists examined the behavioral and brain responses of video game players (VGP) and non-video game players (NVGP) during decision-making tasks. The study involved 47 college-aged participants, including 28 as regular video game players and 19 as non-gamers.

Participants lay inside an fMRI machine fitted with a mirror so they could see a signal followed by a display of moving dots. Participants were asked to click a button in their right or left hand to identify the direction the dots were moving. They were instructed to refrain from touching either button if there was no directional movement.

The study found that video game players reacted faster and more accurately.

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

Scientists have noted, “These findings indicate that video gaming potentially enhances several sensation, perception, and action-matching sub-processes to enhance decision-making skills. These findings shed light on how video gaming alters the brain to improve task performance and their potential implications for increasing task-specific activity.

“There was no trade-off between speed and response accuracy – video gamers 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.”

Journal reference:

  1. Tomothy Jordan, Mukesh Dhamala. Video game players have enhanced decision-making abilities and enhanced brain activities. Neuroimage: Reports. DOI: 10.1016/j.ynirp.2022.100112

John C. Dent