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Curr Biol. 2012 Mar 20;22(6):R197-206. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.02.012.

Learning, attentional control, and action video games.

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Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


While humans have an incredible capacity to acquire new skills and alter their behavior as a result of experience, enhancements in performance are typically narrowly restricted to the parameters of the training environment, with little evidence of generalization to different, even seemingly highly related, tasks. Such specificity is a major obstacle for the development of many real-world training or rehabilitation paradigms, which necessarily seek to promote more general learning. In contrast to these typical findings, research over the past decade has shown that training on 'action video games' produces learning that transfers well beyond the training task. This has led to substantial interest among those interested in rehabilitation, for instance, after stroke or to treat amblyopia, or training for various precision-demanding jobs, for instance, endoscopic surgery or piloting unmanned aerial drones. Although the predominant focus of the field has been on outlining the breadth of possible action-game-related enhancements, recent work has concentrated on uncovering the mechanisms that underlie these changes, an important first step towards the goal of designing and using video games for more definite purposes. Game playing may not convey an immediate advantage on new tasks (increased performance from the very first trial), but rather the true effect of action video game playing may be to enhance the ability to learn new tasks. Such a mechanism may serve as a signature of training regimens that are likely to produce transfer of learning.

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