A collaborative study between the University of Utah School of Medicine and Chung-Ang University in South Korea has found a correlation between adolescent boys who play games and enhanced coordination between the brain networks that process vision and hearing, and those which govern attention span.
“Hyper-connectivity between these brain networks could lead to a more robust ability to direct attention toward targets, and to recognize novel information in the environment,” says senior author Jeffrey Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neuroradiology at the University of Utah School of Medicine. “The changes could essentially help someone to think more efficiently.”
They may also lead to greater distractibility, however. “Most of the differences we see could be considered beneficial. However the good changes could be inseparable from problems that come with them,” Anderson noted.
The correlation does not necessarily mean causation—it’s possible that people who are wired in a certain way are simply more drawn to gaming, rather than gaming being a factor in causing the brain differences. (I know that personally, my easy distractibility makes video games a nice retreat, since there’s a lot going on in a game to keep my attention and help me relax. Other activities function similarly for me; drawing while simultaneously watching television, for example.)
It’s also worth noting that there have not yet been any followup studies to see whether the boys who exhibited brain differences do any better on performance tests, so we don’t yet know whether the results of this research indicate that these differences have any impact on day-to-day life.