If you think your kids are just wasting time playing video games, a new study from the Centre for Vision Research at York University in Canada may make you change your mind. The study shows that young men with experience playing video games may have an advantage in performing other complex tasks involving visual and motor skills, such as laparoscopic surgery.
The study compared a group of 26 young men in their twenties. Half played video games at least four hours a week for the last three years. The other half were not gamers. Each group was asked to perform tasks that combined visual and motor skills such as using a joystick game controller or reaching for something in one direction while looking another direction. The tasks got progressively more difficult as the study progressed.
All tests were performed with the young men inside a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. The fMRI produced a high resolution scan of the men’s brains during the test which allowed scientists to measure which parts of the brain were activated at each step of the experiment. Lauren Sergio, associate professor at the Faculty of Health at York University said, “We tested how the skills learned from video game experience can transfer over to new tasks, rather than just looking at brain activity while the subject plays a video game.”
The results of the study showed that the two groups used different parts of their brains to perform the tasks. The men who did not have experience with video games primarily used the parietal cortex which is the part of the brain most involved in eye-hand coordination. The experienced gamers used the prefrontal cortex which is located at the front of the brain. This part of the brain is used for problem solving and complex thought.
The researchers concluded that using visuomotor skills during activities like video gaming can actually reorganize how the brain works. They say the findings may provide a new direction for research that could help Alzheimer’s patients who have difficulty with even simple activities requiring eye-hand coordination.