Kids Playing Video GamesVideo games may do more than just entertain. A study from the University of Toronto finds that people who regularly play action video games, like Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed, are better able to learn new sensorimotor tasks, improve hand-eye coordination, than people who do not play video games. The results suggest that video games could be part of treatments for people who struggle with hand-eye coordination or sensorimotor skills in general.

The researchers set out to determine whether frequent video game playing could affect sensorimotor control. Eighteen gamers—people who played first-person shooter games at least three times per week for two hours in the last six months—and 18 non-gamers—people with little to no video game experience—participated in the study. The participants used a computer mouse to track a moving white square. The goal of the task was to keep the cursor inside the white square as it moved in a complex, repeating pattern.

At first, the gamer group was no better at tracking the white square than the non-gamer group. By the end of the task, the gamers were performing the task more accurately than the non-gamers. This suggests that playing video games does not give an immediate boost to learning a new skill, but does help individuals learn new sensorimotor skills better over time.

As a follow up the researchers asked the participants to complete a second task to determine if the gamer group’s advantage was due to the ability to learn more quickly or to some innate sensorimotor superiority. This task was similar to the first, but there was no repeating pattern for the participants to learn. In this task, neither group improved over time. The researchers concluded that the gamers performed better in the first task because they were able to learn more quickly.

The findings indicate that people who play video games may be better at learning new sensorimotor patterns. Furthermore, people who play action video games could enhance their abilities to learn new skills. For people with poor hand-eye coordination, like individuals with autism, video games could help them develop their skills.

This research is published in the journal Human Movement Science.

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