Home Mind & Brain Study Reveals Action Video Games Enhance Attention and Reading Skills in Adults with Dyslexia

Study Reveals Action Video Games Enhance Attention and Reading Skills in Adults with Dyslexia

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The University of Padua’s recent research has found encouraging evidence that action video games (AVGs), when combined with a form of brain stimulation, can significantly improve both attention and reading skills in young adults with developmental dyslexia (DD). This new study utilised high-frequency transcranial random noise stimulation (hf-tRNS) to target the posterior parietal cortex, a brain region crucial for visual attention and spatial processing. The findings, published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, suggest that this combined intervention could offer a novel therapeutic approach for improving cognitive functions in individuals with dyslexia.

The study involved 20 young adults with DD, none of whom were habitual video game players. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups: one received the hf-tRNS during AVG training, while the other received sham stimulation as a control. The AVG training consisted of 15 hours over 12 days, using the popular first-person shooter game, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2”. This game was selected due to its high speed and demand for perceptual, cognitive, and motor skills, which are believed to engage and enhance multisensory attentional capabilities​​.

The study measured improvements in word reading, pseudoword decoding, and temporal attention both before and after the training period. Results indicated that participants who received the hf-tRNS showed significant improvements in all areas compared to the control group. Notably, the enhanced performance in temporal attention was strongly associated with improvements in pseudoword decoding skills. This suggests that the stimulation may help in reshaping the brain’s attentional networks, making them more efficient in processing visual and phonological information​​.

Electrophysiological data were also recorded, revealing changes in P300 brain potentials, which are indicative of cognitive processing efficiency. The P300 amplitudes of people in the hf-tRNS group were bigger after training, which suggests that they were better at allocating cognitive resources and controlling their attention. This neurophysiological evidence supports the behavioural findings, indicating that the combined AVG and hf-tRNS training can induce lasting changes in brain function​​.

One of the most compelling aspects of the study was its examination of the long-term effects of the intervention. Reading skills in the hf-tRNS group were reassessed four months after the training concluded, and the improvements were found to be sustained. This longevity suggests that the intervention not only provides immediate benefits but also facilitates enduring enhancements in cognitive functions​​.

The findings from this study have significant implications for the development of new interventions for dyslexia. Traditional dyslexia treatments often focus on phonological training and reading practice, but this research highlights the potential of integrating cognitive training with neuromodulation techniques. By targeting specific brain areas involved in attention and reading, it may be possible to create more effective and comprehensive treatment programmes​​.

Moreover, the use of AVGs as a training tool is particularly noteworthy. These games are not only engaging but also capable of delivering complex stimuli that can drive brain plasticity and cognitive improvements. The study’s success in using a commercial video game like “Call of Duty” points to the potential for widely accessible and enjoyable therapeutic options for individuals with dyslexia and possibly other neurodevelopmental disorders​​.

While the results are promising, the study also acknowledges the need for further research to optimise the duration and parameters of AVG training. Different types of video games and variations in neuromodulation techniques could be explored to enhance the effectiveness of such interventions. Additionally, larger-scale studies are required to confirm these findings and facilitate the translation of this approach into clinical practice​​.

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