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Action Video Games: Its Positive Effect on Cognition

SushilChandra1 ,Jupitara Hazarika2and Devendra Jha3

Playing action video games enhances several cognitive performances; however, the mechanisms underlying this
improvement remain unclear. The aim of this paper is to investigate the effect of 10hour action video game play, on
cognitive performance based on the variation of beta waves. As frontal lobe is associated with reasoning, planning,
emotions and problem solving, and parietal lobe is associated with orientation, recognition and perception of stimuli,
EEG signals from these two lobes are recorded for analyzing the effect. The results show that β-waves of first hour and
eleventh hour of game play have significant changes (p<0.05) in both the lobes. Moreover, the β-activity is more during
eleventh hour than the first hour which indicates increase in cognition due to 10hour game training.

Key words: First Person Shooter Game (FPSG), Cognition, Electroencephalogram (EEG), Wavelet Transform (WT)

1. Introduction: As the player progresses through the game, seeking to

First-person-shooter computer games have come under accomplish various goals, all manner of cognitive
fire in the past for their perceived effects, but research phenomena come to bear which includes learning,
by a Unitec New Zealand academic shows that these making decisions, attention, memories of previous
games can actually improve players' cognitive ability. outcomes etc. The outcome of these cognitive events
The need for fast and efficient selection when playing translates into the player’s observable performance in
video games is particularly great, because video games the game, level of enjoyment or accomplishment,
typically involve demanding visual input that requires learning.
fast hand–eye coordination, quick reflexes, and Recent advances in neuroscience are using
precision timing [1]. Green and Bavelier[2] highlighted electroencephalogram (EEG) signals to correlate the
a range of cognitive processes modifications occurring brain activity. There are relatively few research studies
with the gaming practice. They observed the perceptual that investigate the effects that action video games have
and cognitive effects of games on cognitive functions, on cognitive performance, and even fewer studies using
such as general enhancement in reaction time, visuo- EEG signals. EEG has been used to examine brain
motor coordination, spatial skills and visual attention dynamics during video game play [14, 15, 16] and its
[3]. Visual attention is combination of alerting, affect [17]. But these studies are performed on shorter
orienting and executive control [3].Alerting is the ability period of game play. The frequency range of the EEG
to make use of a cue which provides information about extends from ultraslow to ultra-fast frequency
the onset time of a target stimulus, and thus triggers the components that play no significant role in the clinical
allocation of attention at a given point in time; this EEG. Clinically meaning frequencies lie between 0.1Hz
process appears mediated by right frontal and parietal and 100Hz. In more restricted sense, the frequency
areas and to be linked to the release of noradrenalin [4, range is classified into several frequency components, or
5]. Orienting is the ability to utilize a spatial cue to delta rhythm (0-4Hz), theta rhythm (4- 8Hz), alpha
direct attention towards the location of an imminent rhythm (8- 12Hz), beta rhythm (12-30Hz), and gamma
stimulus; a fronto-parietal network associated with the rhythm (above 30Hz). The EEG signals under different
release of acetylcholine has been associated with frequency bands have gained much research interest.
orienting [6, 7]. Finally, the executive control network, Typically, low frequencies such as alpha rhymes are
which serves to direct attention towards task-relevant related to vigilance and motion while high EEG
stimuli and inhibits the processing of distractor items, frequencies, like beta, are relevant to high cognitive
has been proposed to engage areas in the prefrontal processes [18]Beta activity is associated with active
cortex and involve the release of dopamine [8, 9, 10, 11, processing of information and focused attention [19].
12, 13]. Physiologically, when people concentrate on mental or
psychological related activities or pay attention on
1 Department of Biomedical engineering, Institute of something, the β-wave will increase relatively.
Nuclear Medicine & Allied Sciences, Defense research &
Development Organization, Delhi, India; 2. Theory Background
2.1. Wavelet Transform
2 Department of electronics & Communication A wavelet is a mathematical function used to divide a
engineering, Tezpur (Central) University, Assam, India; given function or continuous-time signal into different
scale components. Usually one can assign a frequency
3 Scientific Analysis Group, Defense Research & range to each scale component. Each scale component
Development Organization, Delhi, India; can then be studied with a resolution that matches its
What is needed is an approach that allows one to track scale. A wavelet transform is the representation of a
cognitive effects of games duringthe game play session. function by wavelets. The wavelets are scaled and

translated copies (known as "daughter wavelets") of a

finite-length or fast-decaying oscillating waveform
(known as the "mother wavelet"). Wavelet transforms
have advantages over traditional Fourier transforms for
representing functions that have discontinuities and
sharp peaks, and for accurately deconstructing and And wavelet coefficients cjkat position k of level j can be
reconstructing finite, non-periodic and/or non-stationary obtain from:
signals. Neither frequency domain analysis alone
provides concern time details nor time domain analysis
alone say anything about concern frequency. Frequency
domain analysis is very useful in physiological signals In discreet wavelet transform we repeatedly split, filter
such as EEG signal. Further EEG signals are dynamic, and decimate the low pass bands. The classical (a0=2,
sometimes transient (spikes/bursts), mostly non- b0=1) wavelet system results in a logarithmic frequency
stationary. As such, for their practical analysis, we not resolution. The low frequencies have narrow
only need to know their frequency components but also bandwidths and the high frequencies have wide
the times at which they occur. So, we need time-domain bandwidths. The wavelet packet system allows a finer
analysis as well. So time-frequency analysis will be and adjustable resolution of frequencies at high
suitable to address such an issue. In signal processing, frequencies. In wavelet packet transform, we split both
we usually need more time accuracy in locating the low pass and high pass bands at all stages. It gives a
transient waves (high frequency), and for slow waves, rich structure that allows adaptation to particular signals
we may be more interested in frequency resolution. [21].
Such an analysis needs an adaptive time-frequency
analysis method. Wavelet transform (WT) is such a tool. 2.3. Percentage Relative Band Energy(PRBE):
The wavelet transform of a signal f(t) at the scale a and Energy Efjiof a spectral frequency band and total
position b is computed by correlating f(t) with a wavelet
energy Etot can be defined as:


Wavelet transform performs time-frequency analysis of

The normalized value is given by:
signals. The main advantage of this waveform,
compared to Fourier transform which is the most
common time-frequency analysis, is that individual
wavelet functions are localized in time. Fourier sine and
cosine are not. Time-frequency analysis is especially And the relative wavelet band energy (PRBE) is:
suitable for addressing such issues [20].

2.2. Wavelet Packets

One obvious drawback of the Wavelet Transform is that
the frequency resolution is poor in the high frequency It is clear that Plis sensitive to the signal energy changes
region. In certain applications, the wavelet transform and represents the energy relation among each spectral
may not generate a spectral resolution fine enough to band.
meet the problem requirement. The use of wavelet
packet is a generalization of a wavelet in that each 2.4. Wavelet Packet Entropy
octave frequency band of wavelet spectrum is further The Shannon entropy gives a useful criterion for
subdivided into finer frequency band by using the tow- analyzing the complexity of a system. Following the
scale relations repeatedly. The wavelet packet function definition of entropy given by Shannon, we define the
can be obtained by: wavelet packet entropy:

Entropy is a description of uncertainty in the whole

The first wavelet Ψ(t) is the so-call mother wavelet signal duration. It is not useful for analyzing the local
function. The h(k) , g(k) are quadrature mirror filters nonlinear property of non-stationary signal.
associated with the scaling function and the mother
wavelet function. The recursive relations between the j 3. Data acquisition and Analysis:
level and the j+1 level are: Six subjects, 2-male and 4-female, aged 20-22years
have participated in the study. A first person shooter

game (FPSG) named ‘Gears of War’ is selected for the here, as β-wave is associated with awareness, anxious
training. None of the subjects had played FPSG before. thinking and highly active consciousness. An Increase in
The EEG signals are acquired using bipolar electrodes β–wave represents high level of concentration, attention,
from the positions F3-F4 and C3-C4 according to 10-20 alertness and an increased cognition. A time-domain
international system (Fig. 1). Signals were acquired at a analysis of these increases is shown in Fig2, Fig3, Fig4
sampling rate of 250Hz using BIOPAC MP30 system. and Fig5.
Before game play, a baseline recording of 5minutes with
open eyes is recorded. EEG recording is taken during
first hour of video game play. Then subjects are asked to
play the game for 10hours, 1hour per day and then
1hour recording is taken again. During each recording
period, the subject is asked to minimize eye blinks and
muscle movements.
First 30minutes of both first hour and eleventh hour
game play recording is taken for processing. Each
30minutes data set is then divided into 15 non-
overlapping epochs of 2minutes each. A 50 Hz notch
filter is used to remove power interference and then
signals are passed through a band pass filter having
band 0.5-100Hz (Butterworth - Order 5). Each electrode
impedance was below 5kOhm.

4. Feature Extraction
Each 2minutes epoch of EEG signals are decomposed
using 7 levels wavelet packet decomposition with ‘db4’.
Then from wavelet packet coefficients [5 0] and [7 4];
[7 5], [6 3] and [6 4]; [6 5] and [6 6]; [6 7], [4 4] and [3
1]; [4 5], [3 3] and [1 1], spectral energy bands of EEG
corresponding to delta (0.5-4.3Hz), theta (4.3-8.3Hz),
alpha(8.3-11.4Hz), beta (11.4-30.5Hz) and gamma
(30.5-100Hz) are reconstructed.
Wavelet packet Shannon entropy (S) and percentage
relative band energy (PRBE) of β -band are computed as

5. Result and Discussion

The focus of this analysis is to investigate the effect of
playing FPSG for a longer period on cognitive
performance. Spontaneous β-activity of brain is studied

-band energy and average β –band entropy of all the

subjects in baseline, during 1st and during 11th hour of
game play is compared in Fig4 and Fig5. An increase in
β-activity is reflected in band energy while Fig5 shows
the change in entropy i.e., uncertainty in β –band.
The paired sample t-test analysis of the wavelet entropy
(S) and percentage relative band energy (PRBE) of β-
band during 1st hour and 11th hour are shown in table.1.
It is clear from the tables that β-waves of frontal lobe
and parietal lobe have significant differences (p<0.05)
between first hour and eleventh hour of game play [22].

6. Conclusion
In this paper, we have analyzed the cognitive
enhancement due to playing action video game. Further
investigation is needed for better understanding of
The variation in percentage relative β –band energy of cognitive impact of playing FPSG for longer period of
frontal and parietal lobe from baseline over 30 minutes time. This study is expected to present some information
of 1st hour and 11th hour of a player is shown in Fig 2 regarding physiological effect of video game play.
and Fig 3 respectively. Similar patterns are seen in case
of all other subjects. The average percentage relative β

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Delhi. He did B.E. in Assam. She did B.E. in

Electronics from M Instrumentation
MM Engineering Engineering from
College, Gorakhpur Assam Engineering
(UP) & M.Sc. in College, Guwahati,
Instrumentation & Assam. Her Research
Control from A.M.U. interests follows
Aligarh (U.P). He is a Biomedical Signal
Fellow & life member Processing, Biomedical
of IETE, Society of Image processing and
Biomedical Control system.
Technology and
Society of Nuclear Devendra Jha is
Medicine. He is scientist E, Scientific
member of Analysis Group,
Telemedicine Society Defense Research &
of India. His research Development
interest focus on Organization (DRDO),
neuro-cognitive Delhi, India. He did
assessment and B.Tech in Electronics
enhancement. & Communication
Engineering from BIT,
Jupitara Hazarika is Sindri, Jharkhand,
a trainee in Institute of M.Tech in Electronics
Nuclear Medicine & & Communication
Allied sciences, from DCE, Delhi and
Defence Research PhD in Imaging from
&Development IIT Delhi. He is a life
Organization (DRDO), member of IETE. His
Delhi. She is currently research interest focus
persuing her M.Tech in on secure
Bioelectronics from communication
Tezpur University, system.