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Neural mechanisms underlying enhanced visual search performance in action video game players

Birch-Hurst, Kayley; Petrie, Austin C P; Archer, Lucy; Stephenson, Alice C; Clark, Kait


Kayley Birch-Hurst

Austin C P Petrie

Lucy Archer

Alice C Stephenson

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Dr Kait Clark
Senior Lecturer in Psychology (Cognitive and Neuro)


Individuals who play action video games have demonstrated faster response times on a range of cognitive tasks, but various changes across the chain of processing could contribute to the ultimate quickening in response. Some research has begun to identify neural markers associated with enhanced performance in gamers and has established that there are differences in low-level visual processing, attention allocation and visual working memory. However, gaming-related improvements could also arise from quicker preparation and execution of the motor response, and potential changes in the motor-related LRP have yet to be explored. Additionally, prior work has focused on changes in a limited number of early ERP components in isolation; therefore, further research is required to identify the relative contribution of each stage of processing to the observed behavioural changes. Using similar methodology as Clark et al. (2015), we tested action video-game players and non-video-game players and recorded EEG while participants performed a visual search ‘popout’ task. We assessed amplitudes and latencies of key ERP components, specifically, the N1 (early sensory processing), N2pc (attentional orienting to stimulus), CDA (target processing, discrimination, and manipulation of information in visual short-term memory), and both the stimulus-locked and response-locked LRPs (preparation for motor response). As expected, gamers demonstrated faster response times relative to non-gamers, and EEG analyses revealed the neural mechanisms underlying these behavioural differences. Improved performance in gamers was accompanied by changes across the processing chain from stimulus to response, evidenced by differences from the early sensory-evoked N1 component through to the later motor-related LRP component. Our findings suggest that enhanced visual search performance in action video game players is driven by differences in early sensory processing in combination with changes to later cognitive and motor processes.

Presentation Conference Type Poster
Conference Name Vision Sciences Society
Start Date May 21, 2021
End Date May 26, 2021
Deposit Date Oct 12, 2021
Publisher Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
Public URL