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If You Have a Bigger Brain You're Probably a Better Gamer

| 22 Jan 2010 15:50
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According to a new study, the size of certain structures in your brain may determine your success in videogames.

Ever wondered why you may struggle at learning the basics of a new videogame but your friend can beat it without breaking a sweat? It may not have as much to do with skill as you'd think. Researchers from the University of Illinois have found that videogame savants outperform novices on basic measures of attention and perception. Experts outperforming newbies is no great surprise, but it turns out that even 20+ hours of training and practice didn't improve the novices' performance. The researchers theorized that there was an actual physical barrier keeping the schmoes from becoming pros.

The brain structures responsible for gaming performance are called the caudate, the putamen and the nucleus accumbens. The caudate and putamen are responsible for motor learning, as well as the ability to shift between tasks. The nucleus accumbens is responsible for processing emotions associated with reward or punishment.

The one question the researchers asked was: "Is bigger better?"

During a study, they asked half of the gamers to focus on upping their overall score in a game, and the other half to focus on increasing their skills at one part of the game at a time, a learning process called "variable priority training." They found that players with a larger nucleus accumbens did better than others in earlier stages of the training period. Dr. Kirk Erickson , a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, says that this is to be expected:

This makes sense because the nucleus accumbens is part of the brain's reward center, and a person's motivation for excelling at a video game includes the pleasure that results from achieving that specific goal. This sense of achievement and the emotional reward that accompanies it is likely highest in the earliest stages of learning.

Essentially, players with the largest putamen, nucleus accumbens and caudates were the best at playing videogames. Unfortunately, I don't think there's a Brain Age for increasing those brain parts.

Source: Science Daily

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