It is no secret that video games aid players with their hand-eye coordination. A new study shows that playing video games extensively reorganises how the brain handles difficult visuomotor tasks.
Gaming pundits have been pulling out the hand-eye coordination card for as long there have been video games. Seeing things is easy. Manipulating things with one's hands is simple. Watching one thing while manipulating something else with one's hands is the tricky bit. Since gamers spend a great deal of time watching a screen while manipulating a controller, their hand-eye coordination improves.
Researchers from the Centre for Vision Research at York University in Canada wanted to know how those improvements occurred. They assembled two groups of 13 test subjects. One group played video games for at least four hours a week over the previous three years. The other group did not play.
Each of the 26 young men was placed in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine and asked to complete a series of increasingly difficult visuomotor tasks.
"By using high-resolution brain imaging (fMRI), we were able to actually measure which brain areas were activated at a given time during the experiment," said Lauren Sergio, associate professor at the Faculty of Health at York University. "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 found that subjects without extensive gaming experience showed increased activity in the parietal cortex, typically associated with hand-eye coordination. The experienced gamers showed increased activity in the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain.
By extensively practising the visuomotor tasks associated with video game play, the gamers changed the way their brains handle such activities.
Gamer brains are special!
The research grants new hope for the treatment of Alzheimer's patients, which often have trouble handling even simple visuomotor tasks.
The researchers hope to enhance their findings in the future by determining how much change occurs per time played. They also plan to test female gamers for the same changes.