Using electroencephalography to record electrical activity in the brains of 39 study subjects as they began playing Space Fortress, a video game developed for cognitive research, researchers found subjects whose brain waves oscillated most powerfully in the alpha spectrum -- about 10 times per second, or 10 hertz -- tended to learn at a faster rate than those whose brain waves oscillated with less power.
The brain signals were an excellent predictor of improvement on the game, postdoctoral researcher Kyle Mathewson said.
"By measuring your brain waves the very first time you play the game, we can predict how fast you'll learn over the next month."
Electrical activity in the brain reflects the communication status of billions of neurons, Mathewson said.
"These oscillations are the language of the brain, and different oscillations represent different brain functions."
The new findings offer tantalizing clues to the mental states that appear to enhance one's ability to perform complex tasks, he said.