Adults who play video games have better cognitive functions

A study of adults who play video games shows they have better executive function, which allows us to set goals, plan and get things done.

A new International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health study found that young adults who play video games consistently tend to improve their executive functioning, the brain function that allows us to plan and execute plans. The study compared the performance of frequent gamers (11 hours a week on average) and casual gamers (1.5 hours a week on average).

When analyzing the success of tests of participants’ reaction time and decision making, experienced players were more successful than casual players. These results may provide further clues about how video games can improve executive functioning.

The popularity of video games has been increasing since the 1980’s when video game consoles became easily accessible. Today, video games are so popular and relevant that colleges and universities include esports teams as part of their extracurricular activities.

Initially, researchers were interested in the negative consequences of video games. The violence depicted in many games has become the focus of concern. However, the results of this research have not dampened public interest in video games, and new interest in the positive consequences of video games has emerged.

Researchers at the University of L’Aquila sought to expand what is known about the positive aspects of video games by assessing attention and decision-making performance without controlling for the game’s genre. Previous research has focused on the type of video game played, not just the actual playing. The research team hypothesized that experienced gamers, regardless of the type of video game they played, would perform better on executive functioning tasks.

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Participants were college students with an average age of 23 years. They were recruited through flyers and social media. 257 did, of which 38 men met study criteria. Half of the participants belonged to the group of experienced players, and the remaining 19 were occasional players. The participants were invited to a laboratory, where they underwent computerized evaluations. These included various attention tests, a dice game that mimics a high-stakes game situation, a decision-making speed test, and a task-switching test.

These assessments revealed that experienced gamers, regardless of the type of video game they played, were more alert, accurate, and quick with attention tasks. They were also much better at making decisions. Experienced players were faster and at the same time more accurate in a task that required visual attention and vigilance.

The opposite also happens. People with excellent executive function are more likely to play a lot of video games.

The study results may be a useful starting point for the development of new video game-based and inspired executive training protocols dedicated to clinical populations with cognitive impairment.


Video game frequency and executive skills in young adults

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