Video-Game Players Better at Using Visual Input

Video-game players really do see more, as hours of playing video games can train the brain to make better and faster use of visual input, U.S. researchers say.

"Gamers see the world differently," Greg Appelbaum, a professor of psychiatry in the Duke School of Medicine, said. "They are able to extract more information from a visual scene."

Gamers are quicker at responding to visual stimuli and can track more items than non-gamers, researchers say. When playing a game, especially "first-person shooters," a gamer makes "probabilistic inferences" about what he's seeing -- good guy or bad guy, moving left or moving right -- as rapidly as he can.

As the game-playing hours mount up, players get better at doing this, Appelbaum said.

"They need less information to arrive at a probabilistic conclusion, and they do it faster," he said.

The researchers said they looked at three possible reasons for the gamers' apparently better visual performance; either they see better, they retain visual memory longer or they've improved their decision-making.

Experiments suggested prolonged memory retention isn't the reason, Appelbaum said, but the other two factors might both be in play -- it is possible that the gamers see more immediately, and they are better able make better correct decisions based on the information they have available.

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