Playing video games affects your brain. Usually when someone makes that claim it comes loaded with negative implications. Researchers at the University of Arkansas, however, have recently discovered a playing a video game for a single hour impacts brain activity in ways that actually improve performance on visual selective attention tests. That’s right. Playing video games improves your brain’s ability to focus. The study itself was small but the results were significant enough to merit publication in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
In collaboration with with researchers from the Key Laboratory for NeuroInformation of the Ministry of Information of China, 29 students from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China were recruited to participate in the study. Participants fell into one of two categories. Half were expert gamers defined as having at least two years of experience playing action video games and ranking in the top seven percent among League of Legends players. The other half were non-experts (at least as far as League of Legends is concerned) having less than six months of playing experience and being ranked among the bottom eleven percent of players. The visual selective attention of both groups of players was assessed prior to playing as well as after. Visual selective attention refers to the brain’s ability to focus on relevant visual information and block out distractions from less relevant information.
In the initial assessments (those given before playing), the expert gamers showed more attention-related brain activity than non-experts. Both groups then spent an hour playing League of Legends. Brain activity was assessed a second time after the hour of playing. This time the non-experts showed changes to their brain activity and both groups showed similar levels of brain activity. According to researchers, these finding indicate that short periods of game play can change brain activity and improve focus. They caution, however, that more research is needed both to substantiate their findings and to determine how long the effects last.