If you love playing video games and you’re playing the right ones, you may be in luck because some have brain benefits. Researchers at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have found proof certain video games have the potential to enhance a person’s ability to think on their feet.
The study, which was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, evaluated several video games and found a link between action video game, enhanced attention, and visual-perception skills of the game “Cut the Rope.”
"This finding is important because previously, no video games have demonstrated this type of broad improvement to executive functions, which are important for general intelligence, dealing with new situations and managing multitasking," said the study’s co-author Dr. Michael D. Patterson, a professor at NTU.
The study used process of elimination in order to rank popular phone and tablet games, shooting game “Modern Combat,” arcade-style “Fruit Ninja,” strategy game “StarFront Collision,” and puzzle game “Cut the Rope” from most effective to least.
"This indicates that while some games may help to improve mental abilities, not all games give you the same effect," said co-author Adam Oei, a PhD student at NTU. "To improve the specific ability you are looking for, you need to play the right game."
Fifty-two non-gaming NTU undergraduate students were asked to play the games for one hour per day, five days a week for one month using their iPhone or iPod Touch. “Cut the Rope” came in first place for improving executive brain functions, which categorize memory, decision-making, planning, and problem solving, while the other games showed no benefits. After 20 hours of playing, the “Cut the Rope” group was able to concentrate 60 percent better, switch between different tasks 33 percent faster, and adapt to new situations better.
There are 1.6 million people playing “Cut the Rope” every day, with 60 million active monthly users in 2013. In total, the game has been downloaded by more than 400 million users across the globe. With 42,000 ropes cut per minute, there is a good chance their yielding brain benefits with each digital swipe.
"This result could have implications in many areas such as educational, occupational and rehabilitative settings," Patterson said. "In the future, with more studies, we will be able to know what type of games improves specific abilities, and prescribe games that will benefit people aside from just being entertainment."
Source: Patterson MD and Oei AC. Playing a puzzle video game with changing requirements improves executive functions. Computers in Human Behavior. 2014.