Opinions are divided when it comes to video games: for some, computer and console games are a great way to pass the time, while others consider such games to be a waste of time. There is also lively discussion on the subject of learning and the question of how console games affect the development of certain skills. Researchers at the University of Bochum have now dealt with the question as part of a study .

The experiment

A team of researchers from Ruhr University Bochum examined 17 volunteers who played action-based video games for over 15 hours a week. In addition, the scientists examined a control group with 17 participants who did not play computer and console games regularly.

Both test groups completed the so-called "weather forecast test", which records the learning of probabilities. The researchers recorded the participants' brain activity using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

In each test run, the test subjects were shown a combination of three playing cards and were asked to assess whether the cards predict rain or shine. The scientists then gave them feedback as to whether their answer was correct or not. So the test participants should learn over time which symbol combination stood for which weather forecast.

The combinations were linked to different high or low probabilities for rain and sunshine. After completing the task, the test subjects filled out a questionnaire with which the knowledge they had learned about the playing cards and their meaning was queried.

Video games have a positive effect on the ability to learn

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The gamers performed significantly better and showed higher activity in a learning-relevant brain area during the test. Prof. Dr. Boris Suchan, Sabrina Schenk and Robert Lech in the journal Behavioral Brain Research.

The gamers performed significantly better in the test and were also significantly better at linking the playing cards with the weather probabilities. Analysis of the questionnaires also showed that participants who spent at least 15 hours a week playing video games had more insight into the meaning of the cards.

"Our study shows that video gamers are better at grasping situations quickly, generating new knowledge and categorizing knowledge - especially in situations with a high level of uncertainty," says first author Sabrina Schenk from the Ruhr University in Bochum.

This type of learning has been accompanied by increased activity in the hippocampus, an area of ​​the brain that plays a critical role in learning and memory. "We believe that video games train certain brain regions such as the hippocampus," says Sabrina so Schenk, "This is not only exciting for young people, but also for older people, because in old age, changes in the hippocampus lead to a decline in memory. Maybe you could treat that with video games in the future. "