Scientists predict video game ability through your brain waves

The methods can be used to train your memory and attention span.

If you always lose at FIFA 2012, science has an excuse for you: some brains are made for video game success and some are not.

Using subjects who did not play games regularly, researchers at the University of Illinois were able to predict who would excel at Space Fortress, a video game specially designed for studying cognitive research. Using electric imaging, researchers assessed the strength of subjects’ alpha brain waves, (associated with relaxation) and found these had accurately reflected improvements. “By measuring your brain waves the very first time you play the game, we can predict how fast you’ll learn over the next month,” said postdoctoral researcher Kyle Mathewson.

The game was seen as a test of subjects’ ability to perform complex tasks in general as part of a wider probe into brain structure. Successful players performed well in decision-making, attention and self-control, suggesting that alpha waves could be key to learning development.

“Ongoing studies show we can be trained to enhance alpha activity – and that this can have a positive effect on conditions such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD),” Dr. Ole Jensen of Holland-based Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour told Metro. “Alpha waves shut down irrelevant brain regions to stop distractions.”

‘Neurofeedback’ is a rapidly developing industry with clinics charging high fees to alter people’s brainwaves. Dr. Jensen believes this is premature: “We don’t yet know how strong an effect we can have so it is a little misleading to sell the service.”


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