Benefits of video gaming may extend to fighter pilots and persons suffering from amblyopia
. Research is showing that visual attention is enhanced by playing certain types of video games.
You’ll be glad to learn that the recently released Call of Duty: BlackOps
and Halo: Reach
qualify. Action packed video games can enhance visual attention, which helps a person to focus on relevant visual information. Bjorn Hubert-Wallander, lead author of a review in WIREs Cognitive Science
, says: "Visual attention is crucial to preventing sensory overload, since the brain is constantly faced with an overwhelming amount of visual information,"
People already possess the ability to ignore irrelevant input, such as scenery while driving, or unfamiliar faces in a crowd when searching for a friend. Visual attention is the mechanism which allows people to select relevant visual information and suppress irrelevant information. Improving on that ability could find application in military training, education, and even some vision problems.
One condition, amblyopia commonly called "lazy eye" - where one eye has better vision than the other. Eventually, the brain may ignore the signals received from the weaker eye. Without treatment, sometimes even requiring surgery, lazy eye can cause permanent vision impairment. Two to three of every 100 children suffer the affliction, according to the National Eye Institute
. So time spent playing appropriate video games could actually be healthy and helpful to such children.
Dr. Daphne Bavelier’s team from the University of Rochester
also included Shawn Green. The team pulled together research from their own studies and those of other laboratories which compared gamers and non-gamers performing tasks related to visual attention. The results: gamers consistently outperformed non-gamers. Proof of the pudding was the improvement in the visual attention of the non-gamers the more they played the game.
However, not all video games are equal. The ones requiring rapid responses to visual information while dealing with divided attention were the ones that enhanced visual attention. The fast-paced, action-based games won the prize for improving the participants’ abilities. Hurbert-Wallander said: "These games require players to aim and shoot accurately in the center of the screen while continuously tracking other enemies and fast moving objects." Bavelier’s Brain and Vision Lab
has demonstrated that playing first person point of view action video games affects several aspects of perception, attention, and cognition.
How many video games can you name that might qualify as a healthy activity in addition to being just plain fun?
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