YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The Nation

Action-Packed Video Games Good for Brain, Study Suggests

May 29, 2003|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — All those hours spent playing video games may not be wasted time after all: A new study suggests such action-packed games as "Grand Theft Auto III" and "Counter-Strike" may sharpen your mind.

Researchers at the University of Rochester in New York found that young adults who regularly played video games full of high-speed car chases and blazing gun battles showed better visual skills than those who did not. For example, they kept better track of objects appearing simultaneously and processed fast-changing visual information more efficiently.

To rule out the possibility that visually adept people are simply drawn to video games, the researchers conducted a second experiment. They found that people who do not normally play video games but were trained to play them developed enhanced visual perception.

Exactly why the games have this effect is not clear. The researchers said more study is needed. They said the findings suggest that video games could be used to help visually impaired patients see better or to train soldiers for combat.

The study, published in today's issue of the journal Nature, was led by Daphne Bavelier, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences.

Parent groups and anti-violence advocates contend that the bloodshed in some video games triggers aggressive behavior in young people, as some hotly disputed studies have suggested. They blame violent video games for such crimes as the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

The new study did not directly address how video violence affects behavior. Instead, the experiments focused on a person's ability to recognize and interpret symbols and letters after playing video games.

"Some people think that video games are turning kids into super-geniuses or psycho-killers," said Kurt Squire, an educational game designer in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Games-to-Teach Project, who was not part of the study. "The reality is probably close to this, where people can process visual information much quicker and be able to discern between different types of information."

Soldiers who grow up playing video games do better in processing data on a screen or operating long-range unmanned aerial vehicles that can film or photograph enemy activity on the ground, military experts say.

Pamela Eakes, president of the Seattle-based Mothers Against Violence in America, said scientists need to look more closely at the effects of video violence on habitual video-game players.

Los Angeles Times Articles