World of Warcraft
There’s more evidence that playing video games can improve your brain in ways that go beyond an ability to get higher scores in those games:

People who played action-based video and computer games made decisions 25% faster than others without sacrificing accuracy, according to a study. Indeed, the most adept gamers can make choices and act on them up to six times a second—four times faster than most people, other researchers found. Moreover, practiced game players can pay attention to more than six things at once without getting confused, compared with the four that someone can normally keep in mind, said University of Rochester researchers. The studies were conducted independently of the companies that sell video and computer games.

Scientists also found that women—who make up about 42% of computer and videogame players—were better able to mentally manipulate 3D objects, a skill at which men are generally more adept. Most studies looked at adults rather than children. [From WSJ.com - When Gaming is Good for You by Robert Lee Hotz.]

Creativity Boost for Kids

While we’ve reported on the cognitive boost games can give to adults, one surprising finding described by Hotz is that a study of 491 game-playing middle-schoolers scored higher on creativity measures, regardless of the type of video games they favored. In contrast, cell phone use had no correlation with creativity.

This doesn’t mean that playing World of Warcraft should replace actual learning activities. It does illustrate, though, the plastic nature of our brains and the fact that the right activities can produce benefits in broader domains. It also suggests that we’ll see continued growth in brain training games and, eventually, game-based learning systems that can provide specific knowledge in addition to more general cognitive improvement.

So, print a copy of this article and put it by your XBox 360 or PS3. If a family member complains you are wasting your time blasting aliens, just tell them you are engaged in a cognitive enhancement session!

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