Results of a study performed by researchers at Iowa State University have led them to believe that there is a relation between “frequent” videogame playing and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
Video Games and Cognitive Control was designed to quantify the effects of playing videogames on two types of cognitive activity—proactive and reactive. Proactive attention is described as a “gearing up” mechanism, or where a player can anticipate what is coming next, versus reactive attention, which is more of a knee-jerk response (a monster jumping out).
A visual task was used to test both attention types with brain waves and responses measured in both frequent videogame players and occasional players. Both groups were charged with identifying “the color of a word when the color and word matched, such as ‘RED’ presented in red, or did not match, such as ‘RED’ presented in blue or green.” This is also referred to as the Stroop task (as seen in Brain Age).
While reactive control was similar in both groups, frequent gamers (particpants in this study who play four or more hours a day) had a propensity for exhibiting “significantly diminished” proactive attention. From a press release:
These data reveal a reduction in brain activity and disruption of behavior associated with sustained attention ability related to video game experience, which converges with other recent findings indicating that there is a relation between frequent video game playing and ADD.
While admitting that the study did have a few limitations, the researchers hoped that “our results may serve to constrain the claims of some scholars, game manufacturers, and journalists who have suggested that playing action video games ‘improves attention.’”
Director of Research for the National Institute on Media and the Family Dr. Doug Gentile, also a professor at ISU and in charge of the school’s Media Research Lab, did not have his name listed in this study (other than the citation of his previous work).
The study is being published in the October 2009 issue of Psychophysiology.
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