From cradle to grave, playing can boost our brain’s function, and new research from PLOS One indicates the integral role video games play in increasing that mental power. After being instructed to play video games for 20 hours a week over a four-week time period, five groups of non-gamers were tested for spatial memory, attentional blink and cognitive control. Depending on the game the participants had been using, each of these skills improved.
Attentional blink is the mind’s inability to perceive one object when another one is too close to it, according to Scholarpedia. Many games cited in the PLOS One research completely eliminated attentional blink. Spatial memory is the ability to sense and remember where objects are in relation to each other. You use this skill when you take an alternate route home from the grocery store. Cognitive control, according to the Carter Lab at UC Davis, is the mind’s ability to change focus and perception based on the needs and goals of that particular moment.
Based on the results of the PLOS One study, action video games have the ability to eliminate attentional blink, improve cognitive control and make it easier to track multiple objects visually.
If you have a gaming console like a Wii or an Xbox, you can play countless action games. Games such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty have exciting narratives and lots of action, but they can be too violent for some people. If you want to play with children, consider a sports-themed action game. You can manipulate your favorite players in games like FIFA World Cup or be the athlete in Wii sports games.
Find and Seek
Searching for hidden objects and playing games that rely on memory helped participants in the study boost their visual search performance. Such games increase your ability to find objects in a cluttered room and if you are young, it can help you learn to read better. Hidden object games, in particular, help boost spatial working memory according to the PLOS One research.
To play hidden object and memory games, you don’t need a fancy game console. A smartphone or an iPad will do the trick. Download hide and seek games directly from your phone’s app store or check out iWin.com hidden object games on your laptop. Invest an average of one hour per day for five days a week for four weeks, and you should experience a notable difference in your spatial working memory. If you don’t think you have an extra 20 hours per week, try playing while you are in line or during the TV commercials. You may discover that you have more downtime than you think.
A recent study from the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at UC Davis investigated why video games are able to boost cognitive skills so effectively. Because video games force users to react quickly to an array of visual stimuli, they enhance the decision-making and visual parts of players’ brains. This makes most gamers more visually sensitive. When games stimulate the sensory-memory capacity of players’ minds, it gives them a workout that they cannot simulate anywhere else.
Author Bio: Kathy Miller is a medical student, working on her degree. In the meantime, she’s a dental assistant and freelance health writer.