Games in Healthcare

FWD News: Research Shows Games Strengthen Cognitive Skills

An Active BrainTwo recent studies outline the power that video games can have to sharpen thinking and reasoning skills. Led by Dr. Rolf Nelson, psychology professor at Wheaton College in Norton, MA, the first study looked at 20 students to see the impact of playing either action or puzzle games on their performance of a spatial-location task.

The researcher found that playing action games for an hour largely increased cognitive speed while playing puzzle games improve cognitive accuracy in the participants. The findings appear in the December issue of the journal Perception. Read More...

"Playing a game which requires very fast deployment of visual attention and motor movement could prime a strategy of speed over accuracy, while playing a game which emphasizes a slower, more thoughtful pace could prime the opposite pattern” said Nelson. “The main point is that different kinds of video games engage different cognitive and perceptual skills, and there are measurable differences in their effects, even in the short term."

The second research project comes from the Office of Naval Research which found that video games can help adults strengthen what is called “fluid intelligence”. The term refers to an individual’s ability to reason quickly without prior knowledge and to think abstractly. Playing video games, according to the study, allows someone to process information much faster and improve their abilities to reason and solve problems.

“We have discovered that video game players perform 10 to 20 percent higher in terms of perceptual and cognitive ability than normal people that are non-game players,” said Ray Perez, a program officer at the Office’s warfighter performance department.

In the military field, empowered fluid intelligence is invaluable especially as warfighters on the ground must be able to adapt their operations to innovative and deadly adversaries who constantly change their tactics, explains Perez. This cognitive adaptability relates to brain plasticity. “We think that these games increase your executive control, or your ability to focus and attend to stimuli in the outside world,” he added.