Video games can be good for you: an investigation of why games can be good and how to enhance their health benefits

In addition to video games being an enjoyable pastime for many people, research is increasingly indicating the beneficial effects of video game use on various cognitive abilities. Studies have demonstrated that in comparison to people who don’t play video games, “gamers” are typically better at focusing their attention and multi-tasking, and they demonstrate superior spatial processing and faster reaction times. A growing amount of anecdotal evidence suggests that video games could have health benefits, such as the use of video games as rehabilitation for stroke patients, or for improving the speed and accuracy of surgeons performing laparoscopic surgery. Although previous work has identified that video game use can lead to enhancements in attentional processing in the brain, research to date has been limited to studying how the brain orients its attention to tasks without considering the role of eye movements in this process. Joseph Chisholm is using video games to investigate the attentional differences between game players and non-game players. He is focusing on the use of “distractors” – objects or events that attempt to capture an individual’s attention and distract from the task at hand. He will compare the ability of game players and non-game players to control what they pay attention to by measuring reaction times and eye movements. In identifying the mechanisms underlying how gaming enhances attentional control, this research could yield potentially novel and specialized treatment options for individuals with deficiencies in attentional processing, such as stroke patients.