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Action Video Games can Make You Smarter, Study Reports

Update Date: Nov 12, 2014 03:11 PM EST

Action video games might be good for your brain, a new study reported. Researchers found that these games, such as "Call of Duty" can actually teach gamers new skills and improve their ability to learn these skills.

"Prior research by our group and others has shown that action gamers excel at many tasks. In this new study, we show they excel because they are better learners," said study co-author, Daphne Bavelier, a research professor in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, reported by CBS News. "And they become better learners by playing the fast-paced action games."

For this study, the researchers conducted a series of experiments on young adults with the average age of 22. The participants were either skilled or unskilled in video games. From these small experiments, the researchers found that skilled participants exhibited a greater ability at performing perceptual tasks than unskilled participants. Unskilled participants who were taught how to play action games became better at completing perceptual tasks.

In another one of the experiments, the researchers recruited and trained players to play 50 hours of "Call of Duty 2" and "Unreal Tournament 2004," which are two action-type games. The players were then compared to other participants who played a non-action game. The team found that people who played action games experienced improvements in their skills as well as their abilities to learn in certain areas.

"I think they are learning how to better apply themselves to certain types of tasks," said Aaron Seitz, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, according to Philly. "Many tasks that we do involve understanding what to look for. This ranges from finding the cereal that we are looking for at the grocery store to the skills of radiologists and even athletes."

The researchers added that these types of video games, which require people to perform a wide range of tasks, encourage the brain to predict what will come next. By being able to understand what might happen, the brain can better adjust to new tasks or situations. Despite these findings, some critics are concerned that the study could encourage people to play more video games, which could have a negative impact on physical and mental health.

"I believe the findings. What I fear, however, is that people will use such findings to justify playing violent action games," Ohio State professor Brad J. Bushman, commented. "I would love to see studies test three types of video games: (1) violent action, (2) nonviolent action, and (3) non-action. Action and violence are confounded in many video games. My hypothesis is that it is the action that produces the learning rather than the violence. The key is to develop exciting, action-packed nonviolent games."

The study, "Action video game play facilitates the development of better perceptual templates," was published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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