[This unedited press release is made available courtesy of Gamasutra and its partnership with notable game PR-related resource GamesPress.]
Certain types of video games can
help to train the brain to become more agile and improve strategic
thinking, according to scientists from Queen Mary University of
London and University College London (UCL).
The researchers recruited 72 volunteers and measured their
‘cognitive flexibility’ described as a person’s
ability to adapt and switch between tasks, and think about multiple
ideas at a given time to solve problems.
Two groups of volunteers were trained to play different versions
of a real-time strategy game called StarCraft, a fast-paced game
where players have to construct and organise armies to battle an
enemy. A third of the group played a life simulation video game
called The Sims, which does not require much memory or many
All the volunteers played the video games for 40 hours over six
to eight weeks, and were subjected to a variety of psychological
tests before and after. All the participants happened to be female
as the study was unable to recruit a sufficient number of male
volunteers who played video games for less than two hours a
The researchers discovered that those who played StarCraft were
quicker and more accurate in performing cognitive flexibility
tasks, than those who played The Sims.
Dr Brian Glass from Queen Mary’s
School of Biological and Chemical
Sciences, said: “Previous research has demonstrated that
action video games, such as Halo, can speed up decision making but
the current work finds that real-time strategy games can promote
our ability to think on the fly and learn from past mistakes.
“Our paper shows that cognitive flexibility, a cornerstone
of human intelligence, is not a static trait but can be trained and
improved using fun learning tools like gaming."
Professor Brad Love from UCL, said: "Cognitive flexibility
varies across people and at different ages. For example, a
fictional character like Sherlock Holmes has the ability to
simultaneously engage in multiple aspects of thought and mentally
shift in response to changing goals and environmental
“Creative problem solving and ‘thinking outside the
box’ require cognitive flexibility. Perhaps in contrast to
the repetitive nature of work in past centuries, the modern
knowledge economy places a premium on cognitive
Dr Glass added: “The volunteers who played the most
complex version of the video game performed the best in the
post-game psychological tests. We need to understand now what
exactly about these games is leading to these changes, and whether
these cognitive boosts are permanent or if they dwindle over time.
Once we have that understanding, it could become possible to
develop clinical interventions for symptoms related to attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder or traumatic brain injuries, for
This research was supported by the United States Air Force
Office of Scientific Research, US Army Research Laboratory, and
National Institutes of Health and published in the journal
Real-Time strategy game training: emergence of a cognitive
flexibility trait is published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Download the article.
For more information, please contact:
Public Relations Manager
Queen Mary, University of London
020 7882 7927
Notes to Editors
Queen Mary, University of London
Queen Mary University of London is one of the UK's leading
research-focused higher education institutions with some 16,900
undergraduate and postgraduate students.
A member of the Russell Group, it is amongst the largest of the
colleges of the University of London. Queen Mary’s 3,800
staff deliver world class degree programmes and research across 21
academic departments and institutes, within three Faculties:
Science and Engineering; Humanities and Social Sciences; and the
School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Queen Mary is ranked 11th in the UK according to the
Guardian analysis of the 2008 Research Assessment
Exercise, and has been described as ‘the biggest star among
the research-intensive institutions’ by the
Times Higher Education.
The College has a strong international reputation, with around
20 per cent of students coming from over 100 countries. Queen Mary
has an annual turnover of £300m, research income worth
£90m, and generates employment and output worth £600m
to the UK economy each year.
The College is unique amongst London's universities in being
able to offer a completely integrated residential campus, with a
2,000-bed award-winning Student Village on its Mile End campus.
Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university
established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students
regardless of race, class, religion or gender and the first to
provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine.
We are among the world's top universities, as reflected by our
performance in a range of international rankings and tables.
the Thomson Scientific Citation Index, UCL is
the second most highly cited European university and the
15th most highly cited in the world.
UCL has nearly 27,000 students from 150 countries and more than
9,000 employees, of whom one third are from outside the UK. The
university is based in Bloomsbury in the heart of London, but also
has two international campuses – UCL Australia and UCL Qatar.
Our annual income is more than £800 million.