All things in moderation, even gaming: Study shows one hour can improve visual attention, ability to focus
(Natural News) Playing video games is not bad for you, as long as it is in moderation. In fact, one hour of gaming can enhance the ability of a person to focus, according to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
The study was carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China and the University of Arkansas in the U.S. For the research, the authors looked at the effect an hour of gaming session had on brain activity and visual selective attention. Twenty-nine male subjects were observed. These participants were divided according to their video game expertise. Participants who had a minimum of two years of experience playing action video games and belonged to the top seven percent of League of Legends players were identified as experts; those who had less than six months of experience and ranked in the lowest 11 percent of players were identified as non-experts.
The research team measured the participants’ visual selective attention before and after an hour of a gaming session. At the same time, the researchers observed brain activity linked to attention with the use of an electroencephalograpy (EEG). Visual selective attention is the ability of the brain to focus on relevant visual information while inhibiting less relevant information. Individuals with better visual selective attention are using their brains more efficiently. This means that they can focus more on relevant information and block out distractions. To do this, the researchers briefly presented a square in the center of a computer screen to each participant. Then, they showed another square in a different part of the screen. The participant then identified the position of the second square relative to the first.
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Results revealed that the expert gamers displayed more brain activity associated with attention and scored better than the non-experts during the initial assessment. After playing the video game for an hour, however, both the experts and non-experts showed improvement in visual selective attention, and received similar scores on the post-game assessment. Moreover, the brain activity changes that occurred in the non-experts were similar to that of the experts, based on the EEG data.
The findings of the study suggest that even just an hour of playing a video game can change brain activity and enhance a person’s ability to focus.
Other positive effects of playing video games
Playing video games requires full engagement, making the brain busy. Here are some positive effects of playing video games, according to an article published by the Reader’s Digest.
- Games give rewarding feeling – Playing two-player games or solving puzzles with a special someone could reduce the cravings of smokers deprived of nicotine as it activated the same reward centers as nicotine does, according to a 2014 study.
- Games help lessen pain – A study at the University of Washington Harborview Burn Center revealed that patients undergoing treatment for severe burns reported 30 to 50 percent total pain reduction when they played a virtual reality game.
- Games reduce anxiety – Children who were allowed to play handheld video games before surgery felt virtually no anxiety by shifting the mental spotlight, according to a study at the New Jersey Medical School. (Related: Video games help kids deal with stressful situations.)
- Games help control your memory – Playing a challenging puzzle game can help ease immediate physical pain and help control painful memories. Participants of a series of Oxford University studies were shown a sequence of graphic, gory images to trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They were then divided into two groups – one group played the block-stacking game known as Tetris, while the other group had no activity. After a week, the Tetris group experienced only half of the amount of flashbacks of the violent images as the group that did not play. They showed significantly lesser symptoms of PTSD.
Read more studies on brain activity at Brain.news.