Brain images can predict your video game performance

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Washington, Jan 14 (ANI): Want to know how well you fare in video games? Well, researchers say they need look no further than a specific region of your brain - basal ganglia.

Psychology professors at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have said that they could now predict with 'unprecedented accuracy' a person's skills at video games and other complex tasks by analysing the activity in a certain area of their brains.

The findings offer detailed insights into the brain structures that facilitate learning, and may lead to the development of training strategies tailored to individual strengths and weaknesses.

"Our data suggest that some persistent physiological and or neuroanatomical difference is actually the predictor of learning," said lead researcher Art Kramer.

The researchers first imaged the brains of 34 people who had no experience in playing video games prior to the study. Then, the subjects were left to play a video game called Space Fortress, developed by the university.

Instead of measuring how brain activity differs before and after subjects learn a complex task, the researchers analysed background activity in the basal ganglia, a group of brain structures known to be important for procedural learning, coordinated movement and feelings of reward.

Using MRI scans, they found significant differences in patterns of a particular type of MRI signal, called T2*, in the basal ganglia of study subjects.

These differences enabled the researchers to predict between 55 and 68 percent of the variance (differences in performance) among the subjects.

They then tested their results against other measures and replicated the findings in new trials with different study subjects.

The brain regions analysed included the caudate (CAW'-date) nucleus, putamen (pew-TAY'-min) and nucleus accumbens (ah-COME'-bins).

The researchers found that patterns of activity in the putamen and caudate nucleus were better predictors of future performance than those in the nucleus accumbens.

They also found that analysing white matter (the axons and dendrites that carry signals between neurons) offered the best predictive power.By analyzing these images in a new way, we find variations among participants in the patterns of brain activity in their basal ganglia," said Ohio State University psychology professor Dirk Bernhardt-Walther, who designed the experiment.

"Powerful statistical algorithms allow us to connect these patterns to individual learning success. Our method may be useful for predicting differences in abilities of individuals in other contexts as well," he added.

The findings are published in the online journal PLoS ONE. (ANI)

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