Good at video games? Illinois researchers could have predicted that, by imaging your brain

Illinois researchers studied 34 people who – after having their brains imaged – each spent 20 hours learning to play a video game called Space Fortress.

Researchers in Champaign, Illinois say they can predict how well you play video games by imaging structures in your brain.

The researchers studied 34 people who – after having their brains imaged – each spent 20 hours learning to play a specially designed video game called Space Fortress. In the game, players try to destroy a fortress without losing their own ship to one of several potential hazards.

None of the 34 test subjects had much experience with video games prior to the study, these scientists say.

They say the game was designed to study real-world cognitive skills. The game forces players to shift their attention frequently to pursue goals or avoid threats. After 20 hours of training and practice, all the players got better at the game.

But – as in life – some people played the game much better than others. These researchers say they could have predicted that difference via MRI analysis of study participants’ brains.

They say they analyzed background activity in the basal ganglia, a group of brain structures known to be important for learning procedures, coordinated movement, and feelings of reward.

Image Credit: PE Central

They hope their study will lead to new training strategies tailored to individual strengths and weaknesses.

The study is called “Predicting Individuals’ Learning Success From Patterns of Pre-learning MRI Activity.” It’s available from the UI News Bureau.

So physical differences in our brains may be predictors of how well we learn. Still, these researchers stress that their study shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that some people are destined to succeed or fail at a given learning challenge. After all, brain structure and function is like body structure and function generally: it can change.

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