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Curr Biol. 2010 Sep 14;20(17):1573-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.07.040.

Improved probabilistic inference as a general learning mechanism with action video games.

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Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627, USA.


Action video game play benefits performance in an array of sensory, perceptual, and attentional tasks that go well beyond the specifics of game play [1-9]. That a training regimen may induce improvements in so many different skills is notable because the majority of studies on training-induced learning report improvements on the trained task but limited transfer to other, even closely related, tasks ([10], but see also [11-13]). Here we ask whether improved probabilistic inference may explain such broad transfer. By using a visual perceptual decision making task [14, 15], the present study shows for the first time that action video game experience does indeed improve probabilistic inference. A neural model of this task [16] establishes how changing a single parameter, namely the strength of the connections between the neural layer providing the momentary evidence and the layer integrating the evidence over time, captures improvements in action-gamers behavior. These results were established in a visual, but also in a novel auditory, task, indicating generalization across modalities. Thus, improved probabilistic inference provides a general mechanism for why action video game playing enhances performance in a wide variety of tasks. In addition, this mechanism may serve as a signature of training regimens that are likely to produce transfer of learning.

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