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Young blokes blinded by video-game addiction: THE FACTS

DARPA-funded eggheads' amazing discovery

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"You'll go blind!" many a parent have barked at their sons and daughters for playing video games all day. But military-funded scientists have proved quite the opposite is true.

Eggheads at Duke School of Medicine have claimed that gamers are better at processing visual information due to the quick reactions they've built up from years of bedroom head-shots. (That's not a euphemism.)

The research was funded by grants from the Army Research Office, the Department of Homeland Security, US boffinry nerve-centre DARPA and, er, shoemaker Nike. The American military has been interested in video-game addicts for some time because skilled players can be trained to become excellent drone pilots.

"Gamers see the world differently," said Greg Appelbaum, assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke. "They are able to extract more information from a visual scene."

Ahead of conducting the study, he found it almost impossible to recruit college students who didn't play action games, but persevered to build up a group of 125 participants, some of whom rarely switched on a console or capable PC, some of whom were total addicts.

Each subject took part in a visual memory task, designed to test how well they could recall information they had just seen for the first time. The academics flashed a circular arrangement of eight letters at their guinea pigs for about one tenth of a second. After a delay between 13 milliseconds and 2.5 seconds, an arrow appeared on the screen and the subjects were asked which letter had appeared in that spot.

Keen gamers beat their sociable rivals, suggesting regular players respond to visual stimuli much more quickly. This is down to skills developed by playing games, particularly first-person shooters that require gamers to make quick decisions about what to blast every second, or so we're told.

Appelbaum claimed that over time, players' ability to process visual stimuli continues to sharpen.

"They need less information to arrive at a probabilistic conclusion, and they do it faster," he said.

Both gamers and non-gamers lost their memory of the letters quickly because the human brain discarded any unused information soon after it was recieved. Yet it seems that gamers gathered more visual data as soon as it appeared, allowing them to more strongly remember the shape and positions of the letters.

Dismissing the possibility that regular game players were able to retain memories for longer, the prof added that gamers were also able to make quicker and more accurate decisions than non-gamers.

The researchers now want to gather data from MRI scans to see exactly what's happening inside gamers' grey matter.

A paper about the study, titled Action video game playing is associated with improved visual sensitivity, but not alterations in visual sensory memory, written by L. Gregory Appelbaum, Matthew Cain, Elise Darling and Stephen Mitroff was published in the June edition of the journal Attention, Perception & Psychophysics. ®

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