Are gamers better learners.

New research by German neuropsychologists has found that gamers have an advantage in learning over non-gamers.

Are gamers better learners? Professor Dr Boris Suchan, Sabrina Schenk and Robert Lech, of Ruhr-Universität Bochum, set about testing this. The goal was; see how well video gamers learn by having them compete against non-gamers in a learning competition.

During the test, video gamers performed significantly better, showing increased brain activity in the brain areas relevant for learning. These results could change how we view video games – from mere recreational, ‘time-killing’ fun experiences, to higher educational practices.

17 gamers – who played around 15 hours of action-based games a week – and a controlled group of 17 volunteers were put through the ‘weather prediction task’. This is a test to investigate the learning of probabilities.

The participants were shown a combination of three cue cards with different symbols. They had to estimate whether the card combination predicted sun or rain, and got feedback if their choice was right or wrong right away.

After completing the task, the study participants filled out a questionnaire. This showed that the gamers had gained more knowledge about the meaning of the card combinations than the control group.

first author Sabrina Schenk said “Our study shows that gamers are better in analysing a situation quickly, to generate new knowledge and to categorise facts – especially in situations with high uncertainties,”.

This kind of learning is linked to an increased activity in the hippocampus. This is a brain region that plays a key role in learning and memory.

“We think that playing video games trains certain brain regions like the hippocampus”, says Schenk. “That is not only important for young people, but also for older people; this is because changes in the hippocampus can lead to a decrease in memory performance. Maybe we can treat that with video games in the future.”

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