'Cut the Rope' found to enhance brain function

(Nanyang Technological University)

(Nanyang Technological University)

Relaxnews

, Last Updated: 6:25 PM ET

Research conducted at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore says that sitting down to play certain video games could enhance the ability to think on one's feet.

The process-of-elimination study examined the effects of several genres and found that a physics-based, complex puzzle game called Cut the Rope came out on top for improving executive brain functions.

The scientific designation "executive functions" is an umbrella term that implicates management of cognitive tasks such as memory, decision making, planning and problem solving.

"This finding is important because previously, no video games have demonstrated this type of broad improvement to executive functions, which are important for general intelligence, dealing with new situations and managing multitasking," says study co-author Dr. Patterson.

The bad news for gamers is that not all games have this effect, for the study involved shooting game Modern Combat, arcade-style Fruit Ninja and real-time strategy game StarFront Collision, which were selected to diversify the genres involved.

None of the aforementioned games improved players' executive function, according to Assistant Professor Michael D. Patterson, an expert in the psychology of video games.

In the study, a group of 52 non-gaming NTU undergraduates was asked to play one hour per day, five days per week for one month using their iPhone or iPod Touch.

Dr. Patterson and his co-author, PhD student Adam Oei, said that players of Cut the Rope demonstrated greatly improved executive functions at the end of the study, whereas players of the other games did not.

After 20 hours of playing time, players of Cut the Rope were able to switch between tasks 33 percent faster, adapt to new situations 30 percent faster and concentrate 60 percent better.

"This indicates that while some games may help to improve mental abilities, not all games give you the same effect," says Oei. "To improve the specific ability you are looking for, you need to play the right game."

Dr. Patterson's take on why Cut the Rope has this unique effect is because it demands the player to change strategy, whereas other games follow the same general mechanics, advancing primarily in speed.

"This result could have implications in many areas such as educational, occupational and rehabilitative settings," says Dr. Patterson. "In the future, with more studies, we will be able to know what type of games improves specific abilities, and prescribe games that will benefit people aside from just being entertainment."

The study will be published in the academic journal Computers in Human Behavior this August and is available currently online.


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