Dyslexia is a common disorder across the United States. It’s estimated that over 40 million Americans are dyslexic but only 2 million are actually aware of it. Some groundbreaking research has recently found that an unlikely activity can actually be used to fight dyslexia: video games.
According to Medical Xpress, a new study by the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain, and Language (BCBL) reveals that video games — action games especially — help improve both reading ability and visual attention, two deficits common in individuals with dyslexia.
The study involved taking a look at 36 individuals who did not suffer from dyslexia or other cognitive impairments. Of those 36, 19 regularly played action video games. All the participants were subjected to various word-related tests and attention evaluations. The results showed that the 19 video game players did better in both trials than the other group.
Approximately 155 million Americans play video games on a consistent basis, but not all of those games offer these cognitive benefits. The best kinds of video games that improve visual attentiveness and reading skills involve constant surprises so the player remains focused and reactive. Games that are relatively predictable don’t have the same positive effects as action and other styles of games.
Of course, world-building games like Minecraft — which has sold over 200 million copies as of May 2020 — may provide some cognitive benefits as well, like improved spatial awareness and long-term memory.
“Certain action games are unpredictable, and force the player to remain always attentive and react quickly,” said Alexia Antzaka, the researcher for the BCBL. “However, the exact components of action video games that promote an improvement in visual attention are still being investigated.”
Another similar study specially looked at children who played action-packed video games. An Italian research team took a look at 10 children who spent nine 80-minute sessions playing an action video game, which consisted of a series of mini-games. The children’s reading and attention skills were evaluated before and after alongside 10 additional children who were not exposed to the game.
Again, the results were conclusive, and the researchers found that those who had played the action video game had better attention and reading skills than before.
“Action video games enhance many aspects of visual attention, mainly improving the extraction of information from the environment,” added Dr. Andrea Facoetti, leader of the study. “Dyslexic children learned to orient and focus their attention more efficiently to extract the relevant information of a written word more rapidly.”
This study was published in Current Biology. Though it sounds like video games can drastically help those struggling with cognitive disabilities, the majority of medical professionals aren’t ready to fully administer daily doses of action video games.
“These results are very important in order to understand the brain mechanisms underlying dyslexia, but they don’t put us in a position to recommend playing video games without any control or supervision,” Dr. Facoetti added.
As more and more research is done within the dyslexic community, it seems as though at the moment, action video games aren’t as bad as they were once perceived.
Here is a quick look at TIME’s top 10 video games of 2017 that are just as popular today:
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Super Mario Odyssey
- What Remains of Edith Finch
- Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
- Persona 5
- PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds
- Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
- Horizon Zero Dawn
- Destiny 2