Good news for gamers: a new British study finds that some video games can help to train the brain to become more agile and improve strategic thinking.
Scientists from Queen Mary University of London and University College London recruited 72 female volunteers and measured their "cognitive flexibility," described as a person's ability to adapt and switch between tasks and think about multiple ideas at a given time to solve problems.
Two groups of subjects were trained to play different versions of a real-time fast-paced strategy game called "StarCraft" in which players have to construct and organize armies to battle an enemy. A third of the group played life simulation video game "The Sims," which does not require much memory or many tactical skills.
All the volunteers played the video games for 40 hours over six to eight weeks and were subjected to a variety of psychological tests before and after.
Findings showed that subjects who played "StarCraft" were quicker and more accurate in performing cognitive flexibility tasks than those who played "The Sims."
"Previous research has demonstrated that action video games, such as Halo, 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," said researcher Dr. Brian Glass from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences.
"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."
The evidence, announced Wednesday, was published online in the journal PLOS One.
Research published earlier this year in the same journal found that playing video games may prevent and even reverse deteriorating brain functions such as memory, reasoning and visual processing. The University of Iowa study of hundreds of people age 50 and older found that those who played a video game were able to improve a range of cognitive skills and reverse up to seven years of age-related decline.
Access the new study: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0070350