Another brain study predicts videogame aptitude using an MRI

By Stephany Nunneley, Friday, 14 January 2011 19:57 GMT


Another brain study regarding the all-important organ and videogames using an MRI has been done by the fine folks over at the University of Illinois. Instead of being used to“map the ethereal concept of attention” though, this study focused on predicting a gamer’s mad skillz.

According to the researchers, they are able to predict “with unprecedented accuracy” how well you will do in a strategic game by analyzing activity in a specific region of your all powerful noggin, offering insights into areas of the brain which “facilitate learning, and may lead to the development of training strategies tailored to individual strengths and weaknesses”.

No word on whether the US Military plans to use this information when creating the ultimate soldier or not, but we’re willing to bet something like this has been going on in some secret government facility since the Roswell incident in 1947.

“We take a fresh look at MRI images that are recorded routinely to investigate brain function,” said Ohio State University psychology professor Dirk Bernhardt-Walther. “By analyzing these images in a new way, we find variations among participants in the patterns of brain activity in their basal ganglia.

“Powerful statistical algorithms allow us to connect these patterns to individual learning success. Our method may be useful for predicting differences in abilities of individuals in other contexts as well,” he said. “Testing this would be inexpensive because the method recycles MRI images that are recorded in many studies anyway.”

After having their brains scanned via an MRI, participants spent 20 hours learning to play a game called Space Fortress where players try to destroy a fortress without losing their ship to potential hazards. The game was designed to test participants’ real-world cognitive skills and forces those playing to refocus attention on an almost constant basis using various in-game threats and tasks.

At the start of the game, most subjects started with “negative 2,000 points”, but after 20 hours of training and practice, all scores went up significantly. None of the subjects had much experience with gaming before participating in the study.

“We predict up to three times as much of the variance (in learning) as you would using performance measures,” Kramer said. “Our data suggest that some persistent physiological and or neuroanatomical difference is actually the predictor of learning. We know that many of these components of brain structure and function are changeable.”

However, the study “should not be interpreted to mean that some people are destined to succeed or fail at a given task or learning challenge”, Kramer said.

Researchers published their findings in the online journal PLoS ONE, and you can read the press release here, which is full of scientific words and such.

Thanks, 1UP.

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