Action Video Games May Improve Cognitive Function

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the Psychiatry Advisor take:

Action-oriented video games may offer a wealth of benefits in terms of improving cognitive function and other brain functions.

C. Shawn Green, PhD, and Aaron R. Seitz, PhD, both of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, analyzed the cognitive effects of video games using existing studies. They found that action games, which feature quickly moving targets that move in and out of view, and require the player to make quick, accurate decision, are particular beneficial when it comes to cognition, even compared to so-called “brain games,” which are designed to improve cognitive function.

“Action video games have been linked to improving attention skills, brain processing, and cognitive functions including low-level vision through high-level cognitive abilities. Many other types of games do not produce an equivalent impact on perception and cognition, the pair wrote in their paper, which appeared in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

“Brain games typically embody few of the qualities of the commercial video games linked with cognitive improvement.”

However, they add that research has shown that the amount of video game play can have an impact on students’ ability to pay attention in the classroom. Also, video games can influence social behavior, for better or worse, depending on the context of the game.

Action Video Games May Improve Cognitive Function
Action-oriented video games may help to improve cognitive function.

From "brain games" designed to enhance mental fitness, to games used to improve real-world problems, to games created purely to entertain, today's video games can have a variety of potential impacts on the brain. A new article argues that it is the specific content, dynamics, and mechanics of individual games that determine their effects on the brain and that action video games might have particularly positive benefits.

Analyzing science on the cognitive effects of video games, Drs. C. Shawn Green and Aaron R. Seitz wrote that action video games — games that feature quickly moving targets that come in and out of view, include large amounts of clutter, and that require the user to make rapid, accurate decisions — have particularly positive cognitive impacts, even when compared to "brain games," which are created specifically to improve cognitive function.

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