Video gaming could stimulate six of the brains cognitive functions and provide a timely tool for neurological occupational therapists
Despite concerns over addiction and other disorders, video gaming is a global form of entertainment that has been growing since the 1970s.
And now, a new report suggests it could also be a means to enhance six key brain functions:
- Attention levels.
- Visuospatial function - the ability to relate what you see to space and objects around you.
- Working memory.
- Probabilistic learning – involving prediction based on personal experience.
- Second language learning.
The broad review of video gaming studies across the world  was released in February, coincidentally with the emergence of the first Covid-19 cases in the UK.
But with home-based neurorehabilitation and activities now the norm for many brain injury survivors and their families, it’s a timely reminder of other benefits video gaming can provide too:
- Engaging activity.
- A goal-driven environment.
- Opportunity to socialize.
- Integration of cognitive skills.
- Leisure options.
- A stress/anxiety coping strategy.
Compiled by Korean university researchers, the report looks at associations between the six cognitive effects being reported by players and the five genres of video games being played:
- Traditional games in the video - puzzle, card and board games.
- Simulation games, such as sports, vehicle driving, or building up towns or communities.
- Strategy games focusing on visual information and planning strategies.
- Action games, such as first-person shooters.
- Fantasy games featuring imaginary worlds or role-play settings.
Findings that demonstrated positive links between the two included:
- Frequent play improved attention and spatial and visual working memory.
- Games testing memory and reasoning boosted divided attention skills.
- Action games improved selective and visual attention, information filtering and change detection.
- Players of first-person shooter games showed more accurate and faster information processing skills than non-players.
- Action and simulation games were linked with better visuospatial function.
- Playing video games is linked with neural plasticity in navigation and visual attention.
- Video gaming triggers higher brain activation in visual imagery, semantic memory and cognitive control.
- Problem-solving skills were improved more through a puzzle video game than with a cognitive training game.
- Hand-eye coordination is challenged.
More work is needed, the researchers say, to fully understand links between video gaming and cognitive function and modulating factors, such as baseline cognitive function, age and gender.
For now, however, there are several gaming consoles offering video gameplay, including Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo Switch.
Video games can also be accessed and played on mobile devices, tablets and computers.
Gaming on a budget
The cost of the latest generation of gaming gear can be quite daunting. Unfortunately often the console itself is not enough to even get started. Often there is a need for additional add ons like controllers and games but all is not lost.
The gaming industry is fast-moving and this often means it leaves behind a huge trail of nearly new games and equipment that has loads of value in exploring.
The second-hand game market is booming there are high street shops that exclusively trade video games and when you have finished one it can be taken back to the same shop for further trade-in.
Online auction sites are selling the original Nintendo Wii for a fraction of its launch price with multiple games and accessories included. Gaming doesn't have to cost a fortune.
Your Krysalis neuro OT will be happy to explore suitable video games to meet individual needs.
1. E. Choi, S.-H. Shin, J.-K. Ryu, K.-I. Jung, S.-Y. Kim and M.-H. Park, Commercial video games and cognitive functions: video game genres and modulating factors of cognitive enhancement.' Behavioural and Brain Functions, February 2020