Twenty-five subjects who had not previously played videogames, taking part in research at the University of Toronto, played a game for a total of 10 hours in 1- to 2-hour sessions.
Sixteen of the subjects played a first-person shooter game and, as a control, nine subjects played a three-dimensional puzzle game.
The subjects' brain waves were recorded before and after playing the games as they attempted to detect a target object among other distractions over a wide visual field.
Subjects who played the shooter videogame showed significant changes in their brain waves and also showed the greatest improvement on the visual attention task, something not seen in those who played the puzzle games, the university reported Thursday.
"Studies in different labs, including here at the University of Toronto, have shown that action video games can improve selective visual attention, such as the ability to quickly detect and identify a target in a cluttered background," research psychologist Ian Spence said. "But nobody has previously demonstrated that there are differences in brain activity which are a direct result of playing the video game.
"Superior visual attention is crucial in many important everyday activities," Spence said. "It's necessary for things such as driving a car, monitoring changes on a computer display, or even avoiding tripping while walking through a room with children's toys scattered on the floor."
The study is being published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.
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