Parents’ efforts to limit the playing of video games by teenagers are undermined by a study published on Thursday.
Games such as Grand Theft Auto 3 and Spiderman can sharpen vision.
As well as making players more aware of their surroundings while driving, for example, video games might one day help to rehabilitate stroke patients or train soldiers for combat.
Shawn Green and Daphne Bavelier, of the University of Rochester, New York, report in the journal Nature that young adults aged between 18 and 23 who play action games several times a week for at least six months are better able to monitor complex visual environments.
They can also keep track of more objects at once, and process fast-changing visual information more efficiently. “Several game players even achieved perfect scores on tests barely do-able for non-players,” Bavelier said.
Non-players could use action video games to improve their visual skills, the team found. Ten hours’ training on the game Medal of Honour was enough to improve a range of visual skills.
“Although video game playing may seem rather mindless, it is capable of radically altering visual attentional processing,” they said.
This could benefit stroke patients who suffer a kind of blindness in part of the visual field, a result of the brain’s “inattentiveness” to that area.