Size of Certain Brain Structures Predicts Game Performance

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A new study published in the journal Cerebral Cortex demonstrates that the size of certain structures in the brain are strongly linked to performance in video games:
A brain scan may predict video game performance, helping determine where you rank on FPS servers or place in a race. A recent study concludes that "nearly a quarter of the variability in achievement seen among men and women trained on a new video game could be predicted by measuring the volume of three structures in their brains."

Researchers looked at three structures in the cerebral cortex: the caudate nucleus and the putamen in the dorsal stratum, as well as the nucleus accumbens in the ventral striatum. They examined 39 healthy adults, ages 18 to 28. 10 were male and none had spent more than three hours per week playing video games in the previous two years. These participants then had to play one of two versions of a game developed at the University of Illinois for 20 hours.

Participants with a larger caudate nucleus and putamen outperformed others when forced to shift priorities and pursue changing goals within the same game. Participants with a larger nucleus accumbens (part of the brain's reward center) also outperformed others, probably due to the "sense of achievement and the emotional reward" accompanying achievement in early learning.

While the study specifically examined the ability to improve video game performance, the results can be extrapolated to both education and general skill training. The researchers indicate that people for whom these structures are measurably larger may be able to more quickly "refine his or her motor skills, learn new procedures, develop useful strategies and adapt to a quickly changing environment." The researchers also note that identification of these brain structures might help identify which students need more training time or how to help people with certain brain injuries.

The study was funded by the Office of Naval Research and involved researchers from the University of Illinois, University of Pittsburgh, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Florida State University. Kirk Erickson, a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, was the first author on the study.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on January 14, 2010 8:41 AM.

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