“Our work provides some answers on that,” Dhamala said. “Video game playing can effectively be used for training — for example, decision-making efficiency training and therapeutic interventions — once the relevant brain networks are identified.” Dhamala was the adviser for Tim Jordan, the lead author of the paper, who offered a personal example of how such research could inform the use of video games for training the brain.
A recent study by Georgia State University researchers found that regular video game players have improved sensorimotor decision-making abilities and increased brain activity compared to non-players. The study’s authors, who employed functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), said the results point to the possibility of using video games as a training aid for perceptual decision-making. The majority of our youth play video games for more than three hours per week, but the positive effects on cognition and decision-making are still unclear, according to the study’s lead author, associate professor Mukesh Dhamala of Georgia State University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and Neuroscience Institute.
The subjects laid inside an FMRI machine with a mirror that allowed them to see a cue immediately followed by a display of moving dots. Participants were asked to press a button in their right or left hand to indicate the direction the dots were moving, or resist pressing either button if there was no directional movement.
Jordan, who received a Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from Georgia State in 2021, had weak vision in one eye as a child. As part of a research study when he was about 5, he was asked to cover his good eye and play video games as a way to strengthen the vision in the weak one. Jordan credits video game training with helping him go from legally blind in one eye to building strong capacity for visual processing, allowing him to eventually play lacrosse and paintball. He is now a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA.
“This lack of speed-accuracy trade-off would indicate video game playing as a good candidate for cognitive training as it pertains to decision-making,” the authors wrote. The paper, “Video Game Players Have Improved Decision-Making Abilities and Enhanced Brain Activities,” was published in the journal Neuroimage: Reports.
“These results indicate that video game playing potentially enhances several of the subprocesses for sensation, perception and mapping to action to improve decision-making skills,” the authors wrote. “These findings begin to illuminate how video game playing alters the brain in order to improve task performance and their potential implications for increasing task-specific activity.” The study also notes there was no trade-off between speed and accuracy of response — the video game players were better on both measures.