New research from Britain suggests that video games may help you train your brain to be more flexible and to think more strategically. This kind of “cognitive flexibility” can be advantageous in today’s knowledge economy, the researchers said. Investigators at Queen Mary University of London and University College London recruited 72 female volunteers and measured their baseline cognitive flexibility, which they described as the ability to adapt and switch between tasks while keeping in mind at the same time multiple ideas for problem solving. All the volunteers were women - primarily because the researchers couldn’t find enough men who played video games for fewer than two hours a week. The women were divided into three groups. The first two groups were trained to play different versions of StarCraft, which requires players to construct and organize armies for battle. The third group played The Sims, a game that doesn’t require much memory or tactical thinking. The investigators found that the women who played the most complex version of StarCraft performed best in psychological tests given at the end of the study. Next on the agenda is to determine whether the positive brain changes seen are permanent. If so, the researchers said, certain types of gaming could be a tool to help people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or traumatic brain injuries. The study was published in PLoS One on August 7, 2013.
Brian Glass and Brad Love et al, “Real-time strategy game training: emergence of a cognitive flexibility trait,” PLoS One. August 7, 2013;8(8): e70350. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070350. eCollection 2013.