Claim: Action games may boost reading skills

Posted by Thomas Anderson

Action games may have been criticized over the years by those concerned over excessive violence, but a new study conducted by university researchers claims playing such games may actually boost reading skills.

Indeed, according to Andrea Facoetti of the University of Padua and the Scientific Institute Medea of Bosisio Parini in Italy, 12 hours of video game play did more for reading skills than is normally achieved with a year of spontaneous reading development or demanding traditional reading treatments.

The above-mentioned claim, appearing in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on February 28, follows an earlier study by the same team linking dyslexia to early problems with visual attention rather than language skills.

"Action video games enhance many aspects of visual attention, mainly improving the extraction of information from the environment," explained Facoetti.

"Dyslexic children learned to orient and focus their attention more efficiently to extract the relevant information of a written word more rapidly."

The findings come as further support for the notion that visual attention deficits are at the root of dyslexia, a condition that makes reading extremely difficult for one out of every ten children, Facoetti added. He emphasized that there is, as of now, no approved treatment for dyslexia that includes video games.

Facoetti's team, including Sandro Franceschini, Simone Gori, Milena Ruffino, Simona Viola, and Massimo Molteni, tested the reading, phonological, and attentional skills of two groups of children with dyslexia before and after they played action or non-action video games for nine 80-minute sessions. The action video gamers were able to read faster without losing accuracy. They also showed gains in other tests of attention.

"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," Facoetti said.

Still, there is great hope for early interventions that could be applied in low-resource settings.

"Our study paves the way for new remediation programs, based on scientific results, that can reduce the dyslexia symptoms and even prevent dyslexia when applied to children at risk for dyslexia before they learn to read," he added.