Study: Video Games Improve Learning Sensorimotor Skills

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The University of Toronto found in a recent study that people who engage in first person shooter video games on a regular basis are able to learn new sensorimotor skills more quickly and efficiently than those who do not, writes Karim Lahlou from Game Crate.

“We wanted to understand if chronic video game playing has an effect on sensorimotor control, that is, the coordinated function of vision and hand movement,” says University of Toronto graduate student David Gozli.

Sensorimotor skills rely on coordination between what you are seeing with your eyes and corresponding muscle movement. With these type of skills everyone starts as a novice and then advances to ‘expert’ level at various paces. Eventually the skill becomes second nature and happens without much thought. Activities like typing and riding a bike fall into this skill set, reports Robin Burks for Tech Times.

In order to conduct the study, David Gozli and his supervisor Jay Pratt gathered 18 gamers who play first person shooter games such as Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed for a minimum of 2 hours 3 times a week for the past six months and 18 non-gamers.

According to Science Daily, the gamers and non-gamers participated in two experiments. In the first experiment they were asked to use a mouse to keep the cursor shaped like a small green box in the center of a white square, which moved in an intricate pattern over the computer screen and then repeated itself. This activity requires sensorimotor skills because they see the target move and have to coordinate their hand to move in the same pattern.

In the beginning of this portion of the study the gamers and non-gamers performed comparably.

“This suggests that while chronically playing action video games requires constant motor control, playing these games does not give gamers a reliable initial advantage in new and unfamiliar sensorimotor tasks,” said Gozli.

By the end of the experiment everyone had improved — but the gamers improved significantly more than non-gamers. This suggests that the gamers have an advantage in learning new sensorimotor patterns.

The researches then conducted the second experiment to make sure that the gamers performance was in fact a result of learning, not simply having better sensorimotor control, reports Mark Prigg for Mail Online.

This time the participants tracked a moving dot, but it did not keep a consistent pattern. The result was that no one improved, confirming that the gamers learning better than non-gamers.

The enhanced ability to accurately learn the dynamics of new sensory motor skills in one of the benefits of playing action based video games, which may be beneficial n many professions. For example, sensorimotor skills are a key component to becoming a surgeon. For example laparoscopic surgery with involves extreme precision manual control of remote surgery tools through a computer interface.