Gaming and Brain Training

Bavelier, Green, Pouget & Schrater (2012) reviewed empirical research on the relationship between playing action video games and brain plasticity and learning. Table 7 summarizes these findings and provides a better understanding of the effect of playing videogames on different aspects of the cognitive functions of the players.

Table 7. Research on the effect on cognition of playing video games 

Research references Aspects of cognition
(Green & Bavelier, 2006)
  • Videogame Players (VGPs) are better at multitasking than Non-Videogame Players (N-VGPs).
(Andrews, Murphy, & Vanchevsky, 2006); (Boot, Kramer, Simons, Fabiani, Gratton, 2008a); (Cain, Landau, & Shimamura, 2012); (Colzato, 2010); (Green, Sugarman, Medford, Klobusicky, & Bavelier, 2012); (Karle, Watter, & Shedden, 2010); (Strobach, Frensch, & Schubert, 2012)
  • VGPs  have better task switching abilities than N-VGPs.
(Anderson, A.F., Kludt, R., Bavelier, 2011);

(Boot, W.R., Kramer, A.F., Simons, D.J., Fabiani, M., Gratton, 2008)

  • VGPs have better short-term memory than N-VGPs.
(Greenfield, 2009); (McClurg, Chaille, 1987); (Subrahmanyam & Greenfield, 1994)
  • VGPs display better spatial cognition than N-VGPs.
(Feng, Spence, & Pratt, 2007)
  • VG playing enhances mental rotation abilities.
  • VG playing “can eliminate gender difference in spatial attention and simultaneously decrease the gender disparity in mental rotation ability, a higher-level process in spatial cognition…after only 10 hours of training…with women benefiting more than men (Feng et al., 2007, p. 850).
(Okagaki & Frensch, 1994)
  • Video game playing improves mental rotation time and spatial visualization time in both males and females.
  • There are “reliable and consistent differences between males and females were only obtained on complex mental rotation tasks” (Okagaki & Frensch, 1994, p. 33).
(Subrahmanyam & Greenfield, 1994)
  • “video game practice was more effective for children who started out with relatively poor spatial skills” (Subrahmanyam & Greenfield, 1994, p. 13).
  • “video games may be useful in equalizing individual differences in spatial skill performance, including those associated with gender” (Subrahmanyam & Greenfield, 1994, p. 13).
(Anderson, Kludt, Bavelier, 2011a); (Chisholm, Hickey, Theeuwes, & Kingstone, 2010); (Colzato, 2010); (Karle et al., 2010)
  • VGPs are better than N-VGPs on some aspects of executive function.
(Bavelier, D. Green, C. S., Pouget, A., Schrater, 2012)
  • VGPs better employ executive strategies to reduce the effects of distraction, especially in highly complex environments than N-VGPs.
  • The extent of the suppression of irrelevant information is directly proportional to the speed of their responses.
  • VGPs seem to focus better on the task.
(Green & Bavelier, 2006)
  • Video game playing enhances the sense of acuity.
(Bavelier, Green, Pouget, Schrater, 2012a)

(Bavelier, Achtman, Mani, & Föcker, 2011)

 

  • VGPs have greater flexibility of resource allocation than N-VGPs.
  • Resource allocation of VGPs is more automatic and speedy.
  • “Video game play leads to not only enhanced resources, but also a more intelligent allocation of these resources given the goals at hand. This is one of the ways action game play may result in learning to learn” (Bavelier, Green, Pouget, Schrater, 2012a, p. 408).
(Green, Pouget, & Bavelier, 2010)
  • VG playing enhances learning to learn.
  • VG playing enhances transfer of learning.
  • VG playing “enhances performance in a wide variety of tasks” (Green, Pouget & Bavelier, 2010, p. 1573).
  • “VGPS perform better than N-VGPs do on tasks neither group had previously experienced and that are, as noted earlier, quite different in nature from action game play” (Bavelier, D. Green, C. S., Pouget, A., Schrater, 2012a, p. 399).

(Adapted from Bavelier, Green, Pouget & Schrater, 2012)

Research findings provide substantial indication that playing videogames enhances a number of different aspects of the cognitive functions of the players. Videogame players have better task switching and multi-tasking abilities than non-videogame players; they outperformed non-videogame players on tasks requiring mental rotation and spatial cognition; videogame players employed executive strategies to reduce the effects of distraction, and to suppress irrelevant information, especially in highly complex environments; they displayed enhanced resources and demonstrated a greater flexibility in resources allocation and a wiser use of these resources. These enhanced cognitive functions appear to contribute to the development of the learning to learn ability and to promote the transfer of learning.

A recent review of research findings on the effect of playing videogames on the cognitive ability of older adults revealed that “Not only do video games improve specific cognitive domains for older adults, evidence suggests they can affect global cognitive functioning as well” even when most of these video games were not originally design to improve cognitive skills (Kueider et al., 2012). Kueider & al.’s findings provide further evidence that videogame playing enhances many of the same aspects of the cognitive functions as those identified in Bavelier et al.’s review cited above. Table 8 summarizes Kueider & al.’s findings.

Table 8. Research on the effects of playing video games on cognition of older adults (50 to 86 years of age).

Research references Intervention Duration Significant findings on Aspects of Cognition
(Goldstein et al., 1997) SuperTetris 5 weeks: at least

300 min/week; playing

time varied: 25.5–36.5 hrs.

Improved reaction time.

 

(Ackerman, Kanfer, & Calderwood, 2010) Wii Big Brain Academy 4 weeks: 5 times/week

for 60 min

Improved on task-specific fluid, crystallized and perceptual speed measures.
(Basak, Boot, Voss, & Kramer, 2008) Rise of Nations 4–5 weeks: 3 times/week

for 90 min

Improved memory, executive function,

and visuo-spatial abilities.

(Belchior & Mann, 2007) UFOV or Medal of Honor 2 weeks: 2–3 times/week

for 90 min

Useful field of view

Improved processing speed

No difference between Medal of Honor and Tetris groups.

(Clark, Lanphear, & Riddick, 1987) Pac Man or Donkey Kong 7 weeks: 120 min/week Improved reaction time
(Drew Benjamin Waters, 1986) Atari Crystal Castles 8 weeks: 2 times/week

for 60 min

Improved psychomotor speed and global

cognition.

(Dustman, Emmerson, Steinhaus, Shearer, & Dustman, 1992) Breakout, Galazian, Frogger,

Kaboom, Ms. Pacman,

Pengo, and Qix

11 weeks: 3 times/week

for 60 min

Improved Reaction Time.

Improved executive function.

(Torres, 2011) QBeez, Super Granny 3,

ZooKeeper, Penguin Push,

Bricks, Pingyn, memory games

8 weeks: 1 time/week Showed less cognitive decline.

Adapted from (Kueider, Parisi, Gross, & Rebok, 2012b, p. 7)

In summary, research findings seem to indicate that playing videogames enhances the global cognition of older adults and slows their cognitive decline. Findings also suggest that the older adult video game players improve their reaction time, enhance their processing speed and other cognitive functions such as memory, executive function, and visuo-spatial abilities.

A number of companies have developed video game training programs designed at improving the cognitive abilities of older adults (Green & Bavelier, 2008). These training programs require the users to perform tasks “that are highly similar in content and structure with tests used on psychological assessment scales” (C . S. Green & Bavelier, 2008, p. 7). According Green & Bavelier, these types of training “have shown clear improvements in abilities specific to those trained as well as maintenance of those gains from 3 months to 5 years” (p. 7); however they added that there is a lack of empirical evidence on the transfer of those skills in real life situations. Bavelier et al. (2012) came to similar conclusions: “changes in knowledge produce benefits only to the extent to which new tasks share structure with action video games. No benefits are expected in tasks that share no such structure” (p. 410), even though it is well recognized that “some mechanisms of learning appear to be shared across domains” (Green & Bavelier, 2008, p. 8).

The difference between videogame playing and cognitive training is that in video game playing, the user is usually engaged in more than one cognitive function at once; however cognitive training programs are mostly designed to train users in one specific cognitive domain at a time (Green & Bavelier, 2008). The separation of domains for training “leads to faster learning during the acquisition phase, yet it can be detrimental during the retention phase, leading to less robust retention and to lesser transfer across tasks” (Green & Bavelier, 2008, p. 7). On the other hand, these authors point out that “variability in learning experience will result in less extensive learning during the acquisition phase but larger transfer to new tasks during retention tests (Green & Bavelier, 2008, p. 8)”. In the same way, “tasks that require very low-level representations will show less generalization of learning than those that rely on higher levels of representation” (C S Green & Bavelier, 2008, p. 8). It is important to keep in mind that Green & Bavelier cautioned that this theory still needs to be tested.

Kueider at al. (2012) performed a review of research findings (a) on the effect of cognitive training on the cognition of older adults (Table 9) and (b) on the effect of training using neuropsychological software on the cognition of older adults (Table 10). It is interesting to note that research on these two types of training come to similar findings and that these findings are in line with those on the effect of playing video games on the cognition of older adults. 

Table 9. The effect of cognitive training on the cognition of older adults 

Research references Intervention Duration Significant findings on Aspects of Cognition
(Bherer et al., 2005) Dual task training: variable or fixed priority 3 weeks: 2 times/week

for 60 min

Both groups (variable or fixed) improved reaction time, no difference between groups.
(Bherer et al., 2008) Dual task training: variable or

fixed priority

3 weeks: 2 times/week

for 60 min

Reaction time decreased and task accuracy improved in both groups (variable or fixed), no difference between groups.
(Buschkuehl et al., 2008) Working memory training 12 weeks: 2 times/week

for 45 min

Improved on all working memory and reaction time measures and several non-trained memory measures.
(Dahlin, Neely, Larsson, Bäckman, & Nyberg, 2008) Executive function training 5 weeks: 3 times/week

for 45 min

Improved training-specific executive function

measures.

(Edwards et al., 2002) Processing speed training 2 weeks: 2 times/week

for 60 min

Improved processing speed;

control group improved verbal fluency/executive function.

(Edwards, J. D., Wadley, V.G., Vance, D.E., Wood, K., Roenker, D.L., 2007) Processing speed training 5 weeks: 2 times/week

for 60 min

Improved processing speed.
(Hinman, 2002) Biodex Balance System 4 weeks: 3 times/week

for 20 min

Reaction time did not improve.
(Klusmann, V., Evers, A., Schwarzer, R., Schlattmann, P., Reischies, E. M., Heuser, I., and Dimeo, n.d.) Complex cognitive tasks 24 weeks: 3 times/week

for 90 min

Improved memory and executive function.
(Mozolic, Long, Morgan, Rawley-Payne, & Laurienti, 2011) Selective visual and auditory

attention training

8 weeks: 1 time/week

for 60 min

Improved executive function, working memory and reaction time.
(Roenker, Cissell, Ball, Wadley, & Edwards, 2003) Processing speed training 2 weeks for a total

of 4.5 hours

IG UFOV performance equal to no contact

group at post-test, improved RT.

(Slegers, Van Boxtell, & Joles, 2009) Training: introduced and practiced with computers; Intervention: equipped with a computer and internet access,

received no specific instructions

Training: 2 weeks:

3  4 hour sessions

Intervention:

52 weeks

Improved memory and executive functions;

no training groups showed decreased performance.

(Vance et al., 2007) Processing speed training, discussed how speed of processing was related to

everyday activities

3–68 weeks (M = 12 weeks): ten 60 min sessions Improved processing speed and attention. Improved visuo-spatial abilities, psychomotor speed and memory.
(Bisson, Contant, Sveistrup, & Lajoie, 2007) Virtual reality group & computer- based biofeedback training 10 weeks: 2 times/week

for 30 min

Both groups improved functional balance and mobility and decreased reaction time with training.
(Cassavaugh & Kramer, 2009) Attention, visuo-spatial working memory, and manual control tasks 8, 90 min sessions Improved executive function, attention, processing speed, and increased accuracy.
(Finkel & Yesavage, 1989) Computer Assisted Instruction: using method of loci mnemonic;

amount of training not specified

Total of 14 hours

for 2 hrs/day

Improved memory.
(Jennings, Webster, Kleykamp, & Dagenbach, 2005) Repetition lag memory training: recollection or recognition practice 3 weeks: 2 times/week

for 60 min

Recollection group improved memory,

psycho-motor speed, and executive function accuracy.

(Lajoie, 2004) Balance training 8 weeks: 2 times/week

for 60 min

Improved reaction time.
(Li et al., 2008) Spatial working memory training 12 weeks: 45 daily sessions for 15 min Improved spatial working memory and executive function.
(Lustig & Flegal, 2008) Memory-training procedures (1) under

specific strategy instructions designed to encourage semantic, integrative encoding, or (2) in a condition that

encouraged time and attention to encoding but allowed participants to choose their own strategy

3 weeks: 8  110 min

sessions

Both groups improved training-specific memory measure and executive function.

Integrated sentences group improved on a non-trained memory measure.

 

(Ralls, 1997) Logical reasoning and spatial ability training: basic computer course Training: 3 120 min

sessions; Computer

course: 6 weeks:

once a week for 90 min

Improved spatial orientation.
(Wadley et al., 2006) Lab or home-based Processing

speed training

5 weeks: 2 times/week

for 60 min

Both groups improved processing speed;

No difference between groups.

Adapted from (Kueider et al., 2012b, p. 4, 5)

Table 10. The effect of training using neuropsychological software on cognition of older adults. 

Research references Intervention Duration Significant findings on Aspects of Cognition
(Blackford, 1989) Einstein Memory Trainer: focused on names and faces,

method of loci, peg word, important dates and phone numbers; or classroom instruction: Einstein Memory

manual

8 weeks: Twice/week Classroom group improved more than

computer group on visuo-spatial abilities.

Computer group improved more than no contact controls.

Classroom group improved more than no contact controls on delayed measure of visuo-spatial ability.

(Bottiroli & Cavallini, 2009) NeuroPsychological Training 3 weeks: once/week

for 120 min

Improved training-specific memory measures.

Improved on transfer memory measures.

(Eckroth-Bucher & Siberski, 2009) Sound Smart and Captain’s Log programs, paper and

pencil-based activities

6 weeks: twice/week

for 45 min

Non-impaired group improved logical memory.
(Mahncke et al., 2006) Memory, sensation, motor control, and cognition tasks 8–10 weeks: 5 times/week

for 60 min

Improved on task-specific measures,

gains generalized to non-trained measures of memory.

(Peretz et al., 2011) CogniFit Personal CoachH 12 weeks: 3 times/week

for 20–30 min

Improved focused and sustained attention, Improved memory recognition, and mental flexibility;

Improved memory recall, visuo-spatial learning/working memory, and executive function.

Participants with lower baseline scores benefited the most.

(Rasmusson, Rebok, Bylsma, & Brandt, 1999) Colorado Neuropsychological

Test memory tasks

9 weeks: once/week for

90 min

Improved memory.

Performance decreased on prospective memory compared to control group.

(Rebok, Rasmusson and Brandt, 1996) Colorado Neuropsychological

Test memory tasks

9 weeks: once/week for

90 min

Improved on implicit and explicit

Memory.

(Smith et al., 2009) Posit Science Brain Fitness Program 8–10 weeks: 4–5 times/week

for 60 min

Improved auditory memory/attention,

memory, and processing speed.

(Berry et al., 2010) Lab or home-based Posit Science

Sweep Seeker visual training

3–5 weeks: 3–5 times/week

for 40 min

Improved on trained and untrained perceptual tasks.

Adapted from (Kueider et al., 2012b, p. 6)

 

 

Series Navigation<< Best Practices and Lessons Learned from Gaming in Education

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *