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Jennifer Chan, Contributor
May 09, 2012

Playing Action Video Games May Improve Your Visual Attention

Whoever said that video games didn't do anything for the brain? A new study shows that they can help hone a few skills. By Jennifer Chan

Playing video games has always been regarded as a form of entertainment, a fun distraction from the pressures of work or academics. However, a new new study conducted by a team of University of Toronto students led by psychology professor Ian Spence suggests that playing action video games may directly improve your visual attention and cause other changes in your brain. 

While previous studies have shown that playing video games may have positive influences on the brain, this is the first study to directly credit the pastime with some of the changes in our brains. Researchers recruited 25 participants who had never played video games before and recorded their brain waves as they tried to spot an object on a wide visual field. 

Afterward, 16 of the volunteers were made to play a first-person shooting (FPS) game, while the rest served as a control group and were asked to play a three-dimensional puzzle game. The participants played for a total 10 hours, with each session lasting for an hour or two. 

After all the sessions, the participants once again had their brain waves recorded as they tried to spot objects amid several visual distractions. Results revealed that those who played the shooter games showed the most improvement in visual attention and the most changes in brain waves. On the other hand, those who played the puzzle games weren’t able to reap the same benefits.

According to Sijing Wu, a PhD student in Spence's lab in the University of Toronto's Department of Psychology and lead author of the study, "After playing the shooter game, the changes in electrical activity were consistent with brain processes that enhance visual attention and suppress distracting information.”

Despite the positive influences video games may have on the brain, however, it’s still important to exercise a bit of restraint. Playing video games may help improve your visual attention but you shouldn’t get too carried away, at least, not at the expense of your responsibilities. 

 

(Photo by Michael Choi via Flickr Creative Commons)

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Jennifer Chan
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Jennifer Chan was a contributing writer for Female Network for two years before formally joining the team as a staff writer in July 2012... Read more...
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