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Action Videogame Changes Brain Activity

Update Date: Apr 27, 2012 12:26 AM EDT

Playing an action videogame causes differences in brain activity and improvements in visual attention, researchers from University of Toronto found.

For the first time, the researchers revealed that there are differences in brain activity which are a direct result of playing the videogame.

"Studies in different labs, including here at the University of Toronto, have shown that action videogames can improve selective visual attention, such as the ability to quickly detect and identify a target in a cluttered background," said Ian Spence, psychology professor at the University of Toronto. "But nobody has previously demonstrated that there are differences in brain activity which are a direct result of playing the videogame."

In the study, the researchers had twenty-five subjects who had not previously played videogames play a game for a total of 10 hours in 1- to 2-hour sessions. 16 of the subjects played a first-person shooter game and, as a control, 9 subjects played a three-dimensional puzzle game.

Before and after playing the games, the subjects' brain waves were recorded while they tried to detect a target object among other distractions over a wide visual field. Participants who played the shooter video game showed the greatest improvement on the visual attention task and also exhibited significant changes in their brain waves. The remaining subjects — including those who had played the puzzle game — did not.

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

The study will be published in the June 2012 issue of the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, published by MIT.

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