Video game brain boost put to the test

Mock experiment tests gamers against their parents

ORLANDO, Fla. - When they picked up the video game controllers, they looked out of place and uncomfortable.

"Your goal was to kill people and there is something inherently wrong about having that give you excitement or pleasure," said Kristi Gonzalez, whose 15-year-old  son plays action video games like "Call of Duty" nearly every day.

Gonzalez and three other mothers agreed to take part in a mock experiment to test the idea that video games can help your cognitive abilities.  The mothers brought their sons along who all consider themselves "gaming experts".

Researchers at the University of Rochester have been studying the positive effects of action video games. Since 2003, they have been trying to see if there is a link between action video game play and improved cognitive function.

Their most recent study, which was published in 2010,  revealed that video game players develop a heightened sensitivity to what is going on around them. This can improve a wide variety of general skills such as multi-tasking, driving, reading small print, and even keeping track of friends in a crowd.

But in 2011, a different study from Florida State University countered most of those claims. That research suggests that people who play video games could just innately have some of these super abilities, and that is perhaps why they are drawn to game play.

"Simple lab tasks, don't represent how it would translate into being able to drive better or how it would apply in a real world setting," said Dr. Walter Boot, the psychologist who conducted the study at Florida State University.

With Boot's advice, Local 6 made a mock-up experiment to test the skills of the group of mother's against their kids.

First, the five boys watched a very short video clip that had a series of everyday objects strung together.  The objects appeared on screen for various lengths of time, with some appearing for just one frame which is a fraction of a second.

There were ten objects in the clip and all of the boys correctly identified at least five or more of the objects, with one boy identifying seven correctly.

Most of the mothers identified just five objects correctly, with one mother recognizing six.

Where the difference was noted was when the clip was played again. Everyone one of the boy's almost instantly could see which objects they had missed on the screen, while the mother's did not seem to recognize much differently.

"I think it made me recognize that my brain doesn't process as fast as it used to," said Gonzalez.

While the experiment was very unscientific and should not be used to draw any absolute conclusions, the participants said it did make them realize that their children could be gaining something useful from the time they spend playing video games.

"They are going to move through life at a much faster pace with all the technology that they're exposed to. (When there is)  use of technology in the workplace, I could see how there's going to be some benefit," said Gonzalez.

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