Thursday, April 24, 2014 Headlines & Global News

Playing Certain Video Games Boosts Brain Power

By Sam Goodwin | Aug 23, 2013 03:14 AM EDT

Video Games
Video games can help boost brain power in elderly people, study finds. (Photo : Flickr)

Researchers of a new study found that playing certain types of video games boosts brain power by making it more agile and improving strategic thinking.

Scientists have often associated many negative attributes to playing video games. Some studies linked intensive video games playing to obesity while others said violent video games led to aggressive behavior.

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However, a new study conducted by researchers from Queen Mary University of London and University College London (UCL) found that something good can come out of playing certain kinds of video games.

In the new study, researchers measured the "cognitive flexibility" of 71 voluntary participants, all of whom were females as the researcher were unable to find male participants who played video games for less than two hours a week. The cognitive flexibility of a person is defined as his ability to adapt, multitask, switch between tasks and think of multiple solutions to a problem at any given time. 

"Cognitive flexibility varies across people and at different ages. For example, a fictional character like Sherlock Holmes has the ability to simultaneously engage in multiple aspects of thought and mentally shift in response to changing goals and environmental conditions," Professor Brad Love from UCL, said in a press statement. "Creative problem solving and 'thinking outside the box' require cognitive flexibility. Perhaps in contrast to the repetitive nature of work in past centuries, the modern knowledge economy places a premium on cognitive flexibility."

Some of the volunteers were trained to play different versions of a strategy game called StarCraft, where gamers are required to organize armies to fight an enemy. Another group of participants played a life simulation video game called The Sims, which does not require much memory or many tactics.

All participants played these video games for 40 hours across a period of eight weeks during which they were subjected to many psychological tests, both before and after each gaming session.

Researchers observed that the group of participants that played StarCraft was quicker and more accurate in performing cognitive flexibility tasks than those who played The Sims.

"The volunteers who played the most complex version of the video game performed the best in the post-game psychological tests," Dr Brian Glass from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said. "We need to understand now what exactly about these games is leading to these changes, and whether these cognitive boosts are permanent or if they dwindle over time. Once we have that understanding, it could become possible to develop clinical interventions for symptoms related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or traumatic brain injuries, for example." 

A study conducted on similar lines found that boys suffering from ADHD or autism between the ages of eight and 18 spent an average of 2.1 hours every day playing video games, boys without the disorders spent about 1.7 hours daily, MedPage Today reported.

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