Researchers attack studies linking increased brain function to video games


Published within Frontiers in Cognition, Walter R. Boot and Daniel P. Blakely of Florida State University as well as Daniel J. Simons of the University of Illinois called into doubt the methods used within studies that found video game players out performing non-gamers in cognition and perception. Cognition includes aspects like solving problems, attention, making decisions as well as linguistic skills while perception involves understanding the environment and awareness of surroundings. 

brain-scanWhile the previous research shows a clear lead in cognitive ability with people who play games regularly, the researchers don’t believe that games are the only possible cause for the increased cognition. It’s possible that people with increased levels of cognition are naturally drawn to video games due to the requirements of solving puzzles in games like Tomb Raider or deciding which path to take in games like Mass Effect. The group also found no link to video game training when trying to increase someone’s cognitive ability and weak control groups didn’t show any sign of improving even the most basic measures of attention after training with action games.

The researchers also found issues with the method that people were recruited into these studies. For instance, flyers posted around campus looking for people to participate in the study often asked for “expert” gamers, an implication that a research team wants the participants to perform well on difficult tests. While the FSU and University of Illinois researchers couldn’t replicate the results of previous studies, they still have hope for the concept of increasing cognition and perception through gaming. Within the same paper, the group created a list of best practices for future research teams and hopes others will be able to produce positive results. The group of researchers also stressed that people should be playing games for entertainment purposes rather than attempting to boost brain power.