The U.S. Navy may have given video-game addicts a handy excuse to offer parents exasperated by excessive screen time.
On Thursday, the Navy issued a press release announcing that “certain video games can indeed improve human cognitive functionality.”
In other words, the Navy believes gamers have a better ability to process information and quicker reflexes.
The Navy noted that its sailors and U.S. Marines have been trained with video simulators for years. But the Office of Naval Research’s Warfighter Performance Department has been sponsoring taxpayer-funded research that is “focused on understanding the cognitive effects that video games have on the human brain.”
That involves having troops play games like “Call of Duty” for extended periods of time.
The press release quoted Dr. C. Shawn Green, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin, who does research on human learning and “neuroplasticity,” which is defined as the capacity of the brain to develop and adapt during the course of one’s life.
“Anyone who is in a position where they would benefit from greater than normal cognitive control, top-down attention, peripheral visual processing would benefit from playing action games, which are primarily first- and third-person shooter games,” said Green.
“That’s obviously a huge set of individuals, from those involved in combat, to people like surgeons or pilots.”
In addition, Green noted his lab seeks to understand how quickly people learn new perceptual and/or cognitive skills, how good they become at the end, and to what degree their learning transfers to new situations.
“We use video games as one type of experience that seems to produce some pretty substantial changes in perception and cognition,” said Green.
The Navy’s research is part of other programs “focused on compiling data on how video games and virtual reality can enhance warfighter performance,” the press release stated.
And others, like Green, believe video games mean better performance.
Dr. Ray Perez, a program officer in the Warfighter Performance Department, observed, “People who play video games are quicker at processing information. Ten hours of video games can change the structure and organization of a person’s brain. In the past few years, we have gathered data through research that backs that up. The data will eventually be applied for training to enhance warfighter performance.”
The Navy noted that previously researchers studied a certain cognitive function, then let their subjects play 45 hours of video games over a few weeks, then administered the tests again to gauge the change in performance.
Now, though, the Navy gives subjects a task, lets them play, and then assigns new tasks to see how quickly they can pick them up.
“Consistent with our hypotheses,” Green said, “we found that those individuals trained on the action game showed faster learning of new tasks compared to those on control video games.”
Now, let’s hope our enemies will be content to attack us via PlayStation.