Study suggests fast-action video games boost brain power

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COLUMBIA - A recent study published by the National Academy of Sciences said playing fast-action video games could increase brain power, but an MU professor who is a gaming expert said such a claim is all a matter of perception.

The study featured one group of college students playing 50 hours of first-person and third-person shooter games such as Call of Duty, and another group playing non-action games, like The Sims, for the same amount of time.

The affects on subjects' brains were studied over a nine-week timeline. Results showed that the action game group performed better when giving a learning task.

University of Missouri Professor of Psychology Bruce Bartholow has done multiple video games studies himself.

"We've looked at other kinds of outcomes, for instance people's cognitive performance, and it's a complicated question, because there are lots of different outcomes that people can look at," he said.

Within his work he's found different results. In his study, he looked at how well people could perform different cognitive tasks right after they've played a violent video game, such as those featured in the new study.

"What we find basically is that if people play a very challenging video game, and they perceive it to be challenging and difficult, for a short period of time after that, their cognitive performance goes down," Bartholow said. "But if they've played the same game and haven't found it very challenging their cognitive performance isn't affected."

Gamer Tevin Rose has been playing video games since he was 5-years-old.

"My parents got a Sega Genesis. I've played from Sonic the Hedgehog to all the way up to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 4."

Rose thinks the study's findings are true, but doesn't think gamers should play longer.

"I think it could increase your brain power to a certain extent, just because of the way games work. You have to utilize hand-eye coordination in order to press the buttons at the right time and also be staring at the TV screen while you do that," Rose said.

"I don't think it will help studying if I play six hours a night or longer," he said. "Everything to excess leads to disaster. You should take everything in moderation."

Barholow said the study's findings could be the result of something like exercise.

"Its kind of a muscle. If you exercise, immediately afterward your muscle is tired, and you might not perform as well, but overtime you're actually strengthening your muscle," Bartholow said. "If video games have this kind of effect on cognitive performance, then maybe over time people are getting better at it."

He said different ages are in different mind development stages, so parents should wait before they let their children play an extra hour.

"Parents really just need to know their children, and know what they're like, and make some decisions on the basis of their own experiences," Bartholow said.