Call of Duty: A Great Way to Train Your Brain
When watching their children play video games, parents across America once rolled their eyes and shook their heads. (Many still do.) "Those games will rot your brain," they'd say, before strolling out of the room in a huff of superiority. But over the past two decades, study after study has shown just the opposite. Rather than rot the brain, action video games instead seem to boost it.
A new meta-analysis just published to Frontiers in Psychology drills the point home. "Action video game training may serve as an efficient way to improve the cognitive performance of healthy adults," the researchers say. Parents included!
The authors, primarily based out of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, dug up twenty years worth of research for their analysis, including only trials that involved action video games, conducted on healthy adults, with a sufficient control group. Their search turned up twenty studies. In each study, subjects played video games then completed varying tasks designed to test cognitive function. The studies lasted weeks or even months. Over those varying durations, subjects played games like Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, and Unreal Tournament for an average of 22 hours.
Pooling the results of each experiment into a large analysis involving over 600 individuals, the reviewers found that action games produced a moderate beneficial effect on overall cognition. Functions like processing speed and attention, visuospatial processing, executive function, and even memory all improved over controls.
Attempting to explain the results, the authors noted that action video games demand quick and accurate reactions, focus, and the ability to concentrate on multiple targets. They also cited recent research showing that playing video games can produce structural changes in the brain.
Generally, younger adults experienced greater cognitive benefits from action video games, which the authors attributed to greater neural plasticity.
Of course, most of the 155 million Americans who play video games don't do so for the cognitive benefits; they play for the fun of it. The potential boost to brain function is an added bonus!
Source: Wang P, Liu H, Zhu X, Meng T, Li H and Zuo X (2016). Action Video Game Training for Healthy Adults: A Meta-Analytic Study. Front. Psychol. 7:907. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00907