Video games play on attention: review

Video game playing can change the brain, making gamers more attentive and heighten visual perception according to the latest review into research.

Scientists collected and summarized results from more than 115 research projects on video games from across the globe, finding research suggested game use could result in changes to the brain regions responsible for attention and visuospatial skills and make them more efficient.

The Frontiers in Human Neuroscience Journal recently published the scientists’ findings. Lead author Marc Palaus said with sensationalist claims by the media in the past about the negative effect of video game use he and his colleagues wanted to try to determine whether there was scientific evidence of brain changes.

“Games have sometimes been praised or demonized, often without real data backing up those claims… gaming is a popular activity, so everyone seems to have strong opinions on the topic,” Mr Palaus said.

He said studies showed how playing video games could change how brains perform and their structure.

“…playing video games affects our attention and some studies found that gamers show improvements in several types of attention, such as sustained attention or selective attention. The brain regions involved in attention are also more efficient in gamers and require less activation to sustain attention on demanding tasks,” he said.

The addiction to video game use – Internet Gaming Disorder – was also studied by the research team. They found gaming addicts had functional and structural changes in their neural reward system, in part as a result of exposing them to gaming cues which promote cravings. The neural changes highlighted were similar to those seen in other addictive disorders.

“We focused on how the brain reacts to video game exposure, but these effects do not always translate to real-life changes,” Mr Palaus said.

“…video games are still quite new and the research into their effects is still in its infancy.”

“It’s likely that video games have both positive (on attention, visual and motor skills) and negative aspects (risk of addiction), and it is essential we embrace this complexity.”