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Games Are Good. They Speed Up Decision Making And Help Surgeons

sjohnson
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Posted September 28, 2010 - By Stephen Johnson

Its Effin Science Comes to G4 in June!

I love when scientific research validates what I already know deep in my soul: Video games are good; Sciences has proven it... well, at least Science has proven that gaming can improve a person's ability to make quick and accurate observations, and also helps prepare surgeons for sophisticated visuomotor tasks necessary for complicated surgical procedures. Good job, video games.

Researchers at the University of Rochester conducted a study that found that gamers who played 50 hours of fast-paced shooters Call of Duty 2 and Unreal Tournament made accurate decisions up to 25 percent faster than those who played The Sims 2.

The study, published in the September issue of my favorite periodical, Current Biology, took pains to rule out faster trigger-finger responses, and actually measured the neurological decision making skills of participants, proving that violent games make you think faster. "The benefit is coming from enhancing the amount of information the brain of action-game trainees can pick up from the environment for the task at hand," the study reports.

Faster decision making is awesome and all, but gaming really shines when applied to complicated surgical tasks. A separate, Canadian study looked at the brain patterns of 13 males in their twenties who'd played video games a minimum of four hours a week for the prior three years, and compared them with 13 males who hadn't. (Where they found these 13 remains mysterious.) Then, the 26 test subjects groups were asked to complete complicated visuomotor tasks.

The study found that gamers are more likely to use their prefrontal cortex, where non-gamers use their parietal cortex to achieve these goals. As I'm sure you know, the prefrontal cortex "receives highly processed information from all major forebrain systems, and neurophysiological studies suggest that it synthesizes this into representations of learned task contingencies, concepts and task rules," according to a 2002 scientific paper. In other words, it is a better part of the brain for complicated, computer assisted laproscopic surgery. Therefore, it's safe to say you will certainly die on the operating table if your surgeon is not at least a level 75 warlock in World of Warcraft.

Well, maybe not, but it is nice when "mainstream" news reports on the positive aspects of gaming. I'm sure they'll go back to mindless bashing within the week, but for now, bask in the positive portrayal of your favorite hobby in these two sources:

PC World

The Washington Post

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