Playing computer games such as Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto for 15 hours a week improves learning, finds study

Playing computer games like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto on a regular basis gives a learning edge over non-gamers, a study found.

Monday, 2nd October 2017, 12:15 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th October 2017, 9:45 am

People who play action games for more than 15 hours per week learn faster than those who don't play often, the research showed.

And scientists say it proves gaming can train parts of the brain linked to learning and memory.

Neuropsychologists from Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany asked 34 volunteers to take part in a simple weather-prediction test.

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Half were regularly gamers and the others didn't play regularly.

Those who played action games for at least 15 hours per week were significantly better at the test, suggesting gaming can fine-tune parts of the brain used for learning.

Study author Sabrina Schenk MSc. said: "Our study shows that gamers are better in analysing a situation quickly, to generate new knowledge and to categorise facts - especially in situations with high uncertainties."

For the weather test, volunteers were shown a combination of three cue cards with different symbols.

Brain activity

Participants' brain activity was monitored by magnetic resonance imaging throughout the study.

They were asked to estimate whether the card combination predicted sun or rain and got a feedback if their choice was right or wrong right away.

The volunteers gradually learned, on the basis of the feedback, which card combination stood for which weather prediction.

The combinations were thereby linked to higher or lower probabilities for sun and rain.

After completing the task, the study participants filled out a questionnaire to sample their acquired knowledge about the cue card combinations.

The study, published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research, showed gamers were notably better in combining the cue cards with the weather predictions than the control group.

Uncertain combinations

They fared even better with cue card combinations that had a high uncertainty, such as a combination that predicted 60 percent rain and 40 percent sunshine.

The analysis of the questionnaire revealed gamers had acquired more knowledge about the meaning of the card combinations than the control group.

Researchers said this kind of learning is linked to an increased activity in the hippocampus, a brain region that plays a key role in learning and memory.

Schenk added: "We think that playing video games trains certain brain regions like the hippocampus.

"That is not only important for young people, but also for older people - this is because changes in the hippocampus can lead to a decrease in memory performance.

"Maybe we can treat that with video games in the future."