Report: 3D Video Games Improve Cognitive Performance
September 6, 2013 9:09 AM
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Study participant Ann Linsley plays the NeuroRacer game
(Source: Susan Merrell)
The game is called NeuroRacer, and it trained the brain of 60-85 year olds
Researchers from San Francisco found that the adult brain can be trained to
enhance cognitive performance
through the use of 3D video games.
Scientists from UC San Francisco -- led by Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD, UCSF associate professor of neurology, physiology and psychiatry and director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center -- used a 3D car racing video game to train the brain in cognitive areas such as working memory and sustained attention. They wanted to see if training would have long-term results in cognitive performance.
The team took a group of 60- to 85-year-old participants and had them play 12 hours of the car racing video game (which was developed by the UCSF researchers) over a period of one month.
The game, called NeuroRacer, asks participants to race a car around a track while several different road signs appear. The participants must watch for a specific type of sign, while ignoring all the rest. When that particular sign appears, they must press a button.
According to the team, this sort of multitasking creates interference in the brain that weakens performance. They found that this interference increases significantly across the adult lifespan.
After the 12 hours of training with the 3D game, the participants had improved their performance until it exceeded that of 20-year-olds who played the game for the first time.
You might be thinking, "yeah, if you take enough time to master a skill, of course you'll get better, and the task will get easier." However, Gazzaley said that NeuroRacer is different. It doesn't allow for people's natural tendency to go on auto-pilot once they've mastered a game; it pushes them further, and gets harder as they get better.
Six months after the training was over, the participants were asked to play the game once again, and they had
maintained their skills
So what's the explanation for this improvement? The team said the training induced changes in a neural network.
The team used Electroencephalograph (EEG) recordings to measure midline frontal theta (low frequency oscillations) in the prefrontal cortex, as well as "the coherence in these waves between frontal and posterior regions of the brain." As the participants got better at the game, activity in this neural network started mimicking that of a 20-year-old.
The participants were put through another test, called Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA) (measures sustained attention), and performed rather well.
"The amount that midline frontal theta went up was related to something that was untrained, this other measure, the TOVA," said Joaquin A. Anguera, the paper's first author and a post-doctoral fellow in Gazzaley's lab. "It implies there's something that changed that was common to the training and to the task we tested afterwards."
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9/8/2013 6:32:20 PM
I've read a fair amount about multitasking and it is generally considered a hindrance to attention, focus, and quality/depth of cognition. The highest multitaskers overestimated their efficiency the most and suffered the most in their performance due to their heavy multitasking.
Now we're seeing research that suggests that multitasking improves cognition. This is the beauty of research -- always contradictory.
Eggs are bad for the heart... too much cholesterol. You'll see a warning on webmd about it. Eggs are great for the heart... cholesterol is no problem. You'll see this from other medical authorities. Too much vitamin C (500 mg or more) is toxic because it oxidizes free iron and creates free radicals. 1000 mg of vitamin C is good for you. It helps to protect your liver and all sorts of other things. You'll find this from the Linus Pauling Institute. Trichlorosucrose ("Splenda"/"sucralose") is totally safe. It's toxic, and can cause leukemia, among other things. Stevia extracts are totally safe, according to multiple studies. Other studies say it causes DNA breakage.
Voodoo research is so much fun. But, sometimes things do become consensus over the long haul. Hopefully the research supporting that consensus is right.
9/9/2013 6:15:48 AM
There are quite a few studies that show contradictory results (Global Warming, for example). I prefer my own experience as a litums test.
Since I started playing FPS's, my spatial awareness ability has trained me to have a virtually eidetic memory of places I've visited (both in real life and in the virtual realm). Also, my WPM has gone from about 20 (after 1 year of typing class in H.S.) to over 90 (mostly due to TFC & UT while avoiding typekills). I maintain that there are benefits.
Additionally, "use it or lose it" applies to most of the human experience--so I'm not at all surprised that a game which strains the cognative abilities of the subject would be conducive to prolonging mental capacity in one's later years.
9/9/2013 9:28:48 AM
I think the only consensus I'm willing to take away from studies on gaming so far is the "use it or lose it" attitude.
If you play the same game for 10 years it probably only yielded any cognitive benefit for the first few months. After that you're 50%+ autopilot. I'm sure there are other tasks that improve cognitive ability equally or better, pretty much anything except TV and alcohol (which are the current culture's dominant past times). I'd agree that one thing certain games, e.g. fast paced games such as FPS's, may highlight one area better than others like spatial awareness.
Disclosure: I'm most definitely a gamer
"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997
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