Strategy-Based Video Games like StarCraft Increase Brain Flexibility, Study


People can enhance their brain's 'cognitive flexibility' by playing strategy-based video games like StarCraft, according to a new study conducted by Queen Mary and University College London researchers.

"Our paper shows that cognitive flexibility, a cornerstone of human intelligence, is not a static trait but can be trained and improved using fun learning tools like gaming," said Dr. Brian Glass, study researcher of the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary University of London.

The researchers arrived at the conclusion after conducting psychological tests on 72 female volunteers who played StarCraft or the life-simulation game The Sims for 40 hours over six to eight weeks. They could not locate any male gamers who spent so little time playing video games.

Two-thirds of the participants played either basic or more complex versions of StarCraft, whereas One-third of the participants played The Sims.

Researchers found that the participants who played StarCraft scored better on the psychological tests after the study period. They showed superior speed and accuracy in cognitive flexibility tasks than those who played The Sims.

"Previous research has demonstrated that action video games . . . can speed up decision making, but the current work finds that real-time strategy games can promote our ability to think on the fly and learn from past mistakes," Glass said.

Plus, they also discovered that

'......The volunteers who played the most complex version of the video game performed the best in the post-game psychological tests. We need to understand now what exactly about these games is leading to these changes, and whether these cognitive boosts are permanent or if they dwindle over time. Once we have that understanding, it could become possible to develop clinical interventions for symptoms related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or traumatic brain injuries, for example."

The researchers state that the findings could result in new treatments for people with brain injuries or conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

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