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Over the past 15 years numerous studies have found that playing action video games such as “Call of Duty” helps cognitive functioning. In an article for Scientific American, brain and cognitive sciences professor Daphne Bavelier and alumnus C. Shawn Green, now an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explain how shooting zombies and fending off enemy troops virtually can enhance brain skills such as visual acuity, reaction time, and multitasking.

“The stereotype of the avid player of “The Call of Duty” and other action games is of someone who is impulsive and easily distracted. Our studies contradict this outdated preconception,” they write

In addition to action video games, other game genres such as role-playing games (for example, “Mass Effect”), and real-time strategy games (for example, “StarCraft”), also boost brain cognition. But games that are commonly marketed as “brain games,” rarely improve mental function.

“Early generations of brain games consisted largely of sterile psychological lab tasks ‘dressed up’ with game graphics or engaging sounds that did not actually demonstrate any generalizable cognitive benefit.”

Researchers are now taking lessons from commercially available games and applying their beneficial characteristics to develop therapeutic games that may benefit patients suffering from attention deficit disorders or cognitive decline.

More on Professor Bavelier’s work

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