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Neuroimage. 2012 Jan 2;59(1):138-48. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.03.052. Epub 2011 Apr 1.

Effects of training strategies implemented in a complex videogame on functional connectivity of attentional networks.

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University of Illinois, Department of Psychology, Champaign, IL 61801, USA.


We used the Space Fortress videogame, originally developed by cognitive psychologists to study skill acquisition, as a platform to examine learning-induced plasticity of interacting brain networks. Novice videogame players learned Space Fortress using one of two training strategies: (a) focus on all aspects of the game during learning (fixed priority), or (b) focus on improving separate game components in the context of the whole game (variable priority). Participants were scanned during game play using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), both before and after 20 h of training. As expected, variable priority training enhanced learning, particularly for individuals who initially performed poorly. Functional connectivity analysis revealed changes in brain network interaction reflective of more flexible skill learning and retrieval with variable priority training, compared to procedural learning and skill implementation with fixed priority training. These results provide the first evidence for differences in the interaction of large-scale brain networks when learning with different training strategies. Our approach and findings also provide a foundation for exploring the brain plasticity involved in transfer of trained abilities to novel real-world tasks such as driving, sport, or neurorehabilitation.

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