The researchers found that players who had a larger nucleus accumbens did better than their counterparts in the early stages of the training period, regardless of their training group. This makes sense, Erickson said, because the nucleus accumbens is part of the brain's reward center, and a person's motivation for excelling at a video game includes the pleasure that results from achieving a specific goal. This sense of achievement and the emotional reward that accompanies it is likely highest in the earliest stages of learning, he said.
Players with a larger caudate nucleus and putamen did best on the variable priority training.
"The putamen and the caudate have been implicated in learning procedures, learning new skills, and those nuclei predicted learning throughout the 20-hour period," Kramer said. The players in which those structures were largest "learned more quickly and learned more over the training period," he said.
"This study tells us a lot about how the brain works when it is trying to learn a complex task," Erickson said. "We can use information about the brain to predict who is going to learn certain tasks at a more rapid rate." Such information might be useful in education, where longer training periods may be required for some students, or in treating disability or dementia, where information about the brain regions affected by injury or disease could lead to a better understanding of the skills that might also need attention, he said.
|Contact: Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign