Have you ever had a friend who is just good at every game she or she lays his or her hands on? So have we. Aren't they annoying? Anyhow, there may be a biological basis for why they are just so damn good.
Scientists at the University of Illinois measured electrical activity in the brains of test subjects while they played a custom-built computer game.
The subjects whose brain waves oscillated most powerfully in the alpha spectrum (about 10 times per second, or 10 hertz) when measured at the front of the head tended to learn at a faster rate than those whose brain waves oscillated with less power, the researchers found.
In other words, stronger alpha wave oscillation predicted strongly how good the subjects would get at the game. So it really that simple? We emailed Kyle Mathewson, a postdoctoral researcher on the project, to find out.
Do you think this correlation, between improvement in play and more powerful alpha wave oscillation, would extend to commercial videogames?
The video game we used, Space Fortress, was design to simulate a complex, multifaceted game-play environment. To maximize their score, players must balance many factors, such as steering, shooting, dodging, responding to threats, selecting rewards, and remembering task components. Many more modern commercial games also combine these features into their more complex environments and controls. Furthermore, we found that the level of alpha waves during all parts of initial gameplay was associated with improvements, not just certain features of the Space Fortress game.
We feel that the alpha power relationships represent a general mechanism not specific to this game, or its specific features.
Do you think that this would apply more to certain kinds of videogames than others?