How Action Video Gaming Improves Cognitive Deficits?

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Source: healthing.ca

Scientific studies conducted in different parts of the world over the last decade show that, even with certain reservations about how much aggression or addiction can increase, video games also enhance certain brain skills: improving attention and speeding up the ability to react and flexibility in the face of the new challenges, among others.

That is why, in recent times, specialists began to design non-violent videogames for people with brain problems, trauma, mental illness, and cognitive deficits: a digitized and scientific version of taking advantage of the best of a tool, eliminating the most harmful. The results show that these programs or software are more effective than the so-called “brain games” that have been so much marketing lately.

Do you consider yourself a fan of the Xbox, the Play Station, or the Wii? Do you take advantage of a break in your work or study day to play video games? Then this post will interest you.

Studies

Source: globalhealthnewswire.com

Research published in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences magazine has concluded that fast-paced action-video games like Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, or Unreal Tournament improve learning.  They also improve the competitive spirit, because it is no longer enough just to be a good gamer, but to look for different ways to win. Sites like LFCarry, offer a variety of options, like MW weapon camos boost for CoD, through which progress is made and this leads to even greater competitiveness among the people who play.

The work is led by Daphne Bavelier, a specialist in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Rochester, United States, who has studied the effect of video games on the brain for years. Specifically, Bavelier tries to understand how they modify brain plasticity, that is, the ability to adapt to changes in the environment, and then develop technologies that allow us to learn faster and with less effort.

In 2012, a team at the University of Toronto, Canada, demonstrated that playing an action video game, even for a short period of time, causes changes in brain activity and improves visual attention. It was the first time that a study showed that video games cause direct changes in the brain.

Since then, various works have shown that putting yourself in front of the game serves to train cognitive, sensory, and spatial skills. However, the mechanisms that induce such improvements were unknown.

Improved anticipation

Source: rochester.edu

Action video games train our prediction skills. At every moment, our brain collects information from the environment and tries to figure out what will happen next. This is crucial in many daily activities. When driving, for example, deducing in advance and quickly whether the person in front will brake or turn is essential. To make these predictions, the brain builds patterns from reality. The better these representations are, the better our execution will be, and, for this, we must know how to select the clues that allow us to make accurate and accurate predictions and filter the rest of the data from the environment that do not contribute anything and are only distracting.

According to Bavelier, action video game players are accustomed to a rapidly changing world so they perceive important details earlier, filter out information that is not relevant, create better predictive patterns, and make more accurate decisions. But spending hours with the game console, an apparently banal activity, also improves the ability to learn new tasks.

Attention

Source: obssr.od.nih.gov

There is an improvement in several dimensions of attention:

Selective attention, which is the ability to focus on a specific stimulus or task. Then, divided attention, which refers to the mechanisms that are put into practice to attend to various tasks or stimuli at the same time. Sustained attention, which is the time that a person is able to concentrate on a task before starting to make mistakes. Also information processing speed and efficiency in the control of attention.

Perception

Source: vizualedge.com

Video games promote an improvement in perceptual skills, which are those that help us interpret the world around us. Specifically, it has been seen that visual perception improves in some aspects.

Spatial cognition

Source: fz-juelich.de

It has been found that the continued use of some video games, such as Super Mario Bros in 3D and other action, generates beneficial effects in visuospatial aspects. Visuospatial ability is what enables us to process visual information that involves spatial relationships.

Cognitive control

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Video games affect the following cognitive control abilities:

  • Multitask – The virtue of multitasking that is necessary to play (and if possible win) also improves the possibilities of acting in multiple ways in everyday life and not just during games. And something very notorious, the scientific researches indicates, is that the players gain inability to react to unexpected events: the more they play-action videogames, the more flexibility they demonstrate in the face of changing situations. Tests show that performance increases by more than ten percent compared to what one person had before starting to play regularly.
  • Task change
  • Proactive and reactive inhibition, which are mechanisms that are activated to prevent previous learning from interfering unfavorably with other learning.
  • Working memory, which is the ability to temporarily store information (visual or auditory). It is a short-term memory.

How the brain changes

Source: mindful.org

These changes in cognitive functions occur because the human brain is not inalterable, that is, it has what is known as brain plasticity, which is defined as the ability to change its structural and functional organization in response to the development, experience, changes in the environment and even injury and damage.

Brain modifications can, therefore, be functional or structural. The former is more immediate and the structural ones are appreciated over a longer period of time.  Scientists have seen that video games generate functional changes, but also structural, and they have identified in which areas they occur.

These are some of the brain regions whose function and structure changes and the type of tasks in which they are involved:

  • Frontoparietal network. It is activated in tasks with a high demand for attention.
  • Anterior cingulate cortex, involved in selective and divided attention.
  • The ventromedial prefrontal cortex, for the processing of information attending to stimuli that are relevant to achieving a goal.
  • Entorhinal cortex for spatial orientation.
  • Right hippocampus, a region involved in the mental representation of objects, the mental manipulation of objects, spatial orientation, and spatial memory.
  • Occipito-parietal network, which controls visuomotor performance.
  • The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which contributes to improving executive functions and performing tasks that require a lot of attention.
  • Orbitofrontal cortex for working memory.

Conclusion

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So, the next time you entertain yourself with an action video game, don’t think that you’re wasting your time. This is likely to help you improve your cognitive abilities.