Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Puzzle games can improve mental flexibility, study shows

Date:
June 24, 2014
Source:
Nanyang Technological University
Summary:
Want to improve your mental finesse? Playing a puzzle game likeCut the Ropecould just be the thing you need. A recent study showed that adults who played the physics-based puzzle video gameCut the Roperegularly, for as little as an hour a day, had improved executive functions. The executive functions in your brain are important for making decisions in everyday life when you have to deal with sudden changes in your environment -- better known as thinking on your feet.

The video game study by Assistant Professor Michael D. Patterson and his PhD student Mr Adam Oei, tested four different games for the mobile platform, as their previous research had shown that different games trained different skills.
Credit: Image courtesy of Nanyang Technological University

Want to improve your mental finesse? Playing a puzzle game like Cut the Rope could just be the thing you need.

Related Articles


A recent study by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) scientists showed that adults who played the physics-based puzzle video game Cut the Rope regularly, for as little as an hour a day, had improved executive functions.

The executive functions in your brain are important for making decisions in everyday life when you have to deal with sudden changes in your environment -- better known as thinking on your feet. An example would be when the traffic light turns amber and a driver has to decide in an instant if he will be able to brake in time or if it is safer to travel across the junction.

The video game study by Assistant Professor Michael D. Patterson and his PhD student Mr Adam Oei, tested four different games for the mobile platform, as their previous research had shown that different games trained different skills.

The games varied in their genres, which included a first person shooter (Modern Combat); arcade (Fruit Ninja); real-time strategy (StarFront Collision); and a complex puzzle (Cut the Rope).

NTU undergraduates, who were non-gamers, were then selected to play an hour a day, 5 days a week on their iPhone or iPod Touch. This video game training lasted for 4 weeks, a total of 20 hours.

Prof Patterson said students who played Cut the Rope, showed significant improvement on executive function tasks while no significant improvements were observed in those playing the other three games.

"This finding is important because previously, no video games have demonstrated this type of broad improvement to executive functions, which are important for general intelligence, dealing with new situations and managing multitasking," said Prof Patterson, an expert in the psychology of video games.

"This indicates that while some games may help to improve mental abilities, not all games give you the same effect. To improve the specific ability you are looking for, you need to play the right game," added Mr Oei.

The abilities tested in this study included how fast the players can switch tasks (an indicator of mental flexibility); how fast can the players adapt to a new situation instead of relying on the same strategy (the ability to inhibit prepotent or predominant responses); and how well they can focus on information while blocking out distractors or inappropriate responses (also known as the Flanker task in cognitive psychology).

Prof Patterson said the reason Cut the Rope improved executive function in their players was probably due to the game's unique puzzle design. Strategies which worked for earlier levels would not work in later levels, and regularly forced the players to think creatively and try alternate solutions. This is unlike most other video games which keep the same general mechanics and goals, and just speed up or increase the number of items to keep track of.

After 20 hours of game play, players of Cut the Rope could switch between tasks 33 per cent faster, were 30 per cent faster in adapting to new situations, and 60 per cent better in blocking out distractions and focusing on the tasks at hand than before training.

All three tests were done one week after the 52 students had finished playing their assigned game, to ensure that these were not temporary gains due to motivation or arousal effects.

The study will be published in the academic journal, Computers in Human Behavior, this August, but is available currently online. This is the first study that showed broad transfer to several different executive functions, further providing evidence the video games can be effective in training human cognition.

"This result could have implications in many areas such as educational, occupational and rehabilitative settings," Prof Patterson said.

"In future, with more studies, we will be able to know what type of games improves specific abilities, and prescribe games that will benefit people aside from just being entertainment."

In their previous study published last year in PloS One, a top academic journal, Prof Patterson and Mr Oei studied the effects mobile gaming had on 75 NTU undergraduates.

The non-gamers were instructed to play one of the following games: "match three" game Bejeweled, virtual life simulation game The Sims, and action shooter Modern Combat.

The study findings showed that adults who play action games improved their ability to track multiple objects in a short span of time, useful when driving during a busy rush hour; while other games improved the participants' ability for visual search tasks, useful when picking out an item from a large supermarket.

Moving forward, the Prof Patterson is keen to look at whether there is any improvement from playing such games in experienced adult gamers and how much improvement one can make through playing games.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Nanyang Technological University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Adam C. Oei, Michael D. Patterson. Playing a puzzle video game with changing requirements improves executive functions. Computers in Human Behavior, 2014; 37: 216 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2014.04.046

Cite This Page:

Nanyang Technological University. "Puzzle games can improve mental flexibility, study shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140624092528.htm>.
Nanyang Technological University. (2014, June 24). Puzzle games can improve mental flexibility, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140624092528.htm
Nanyang Technological University. "Puzzle games can improve mental flexibility, study shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140624092528.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 29, 2014) A Swedish amputee who became the first person to ever receive a brain controlled prosthetic arm is able to manipulate and handle delicate objects with an unprecedented level of dexterity. The device is connected directly to his bone, nerves and muscles, giving him the ability to control it with his thoughts. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robots Get Funky on the Dance Floor

Robots Get Funky on the Dance Floor

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Dancing, spinning and fighting robots are showing off their agility at "Robocomp" in Krakow. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
IBM Taps Into Twitter's Data With New Partnership

IBM Taps Into Twitter's Data With New Partnership

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) The new partnership will allow IBM to access Twitter’s data and analytics to help IBM clients better understand their consumers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google To Use Nanoparticles, Wearables To Detect Disease

Google To Use Nanoparticles, Wearables To Detect Disease

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) Google X wants to improve modern medicine with nanoparticles and a wearable device. It's all an attempt to tackle disease detection and prevention. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins