The size of your striatum is key to your gaming success (Erickson et al., in press)

A lot of news reports on a neuropsychological study about the size of your striatum, responsible for procedural learning, being a key factor in successfully learning and mastering a video game. Since it’s a neuropsychological study and I’m weakest in that area, I’ll refer the reporting to other sources. This research is brought by Kirk Erickson (University of Pittsburgh), Walter Boot (Florida State University), and the folks from the Lifelong Brain and Cognition Lab (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign).


Video game skills transfer to other tasks, but individual differences in performance and in learning and transfer rates make it difficult to identify the source of transfer benefits. We asked whether variability in initial acquisition and of improvement in performance on a demanding video game, the Space Fortress game, could be predicted by variations in the pretraining volume of either of 2 key brain regions implicated in learning and memory: the striatum, implicated in procedural learning and cognitive flexibility, and the hippocampus, implicated in declarative memory. We found that hippocampal volumes did not predict learning improvement but that striatal volumes did. Moreover, for the striatum, the volumes of the dorsal striatum predicted improvement in performance but the volumes of the ventral striatum did not. Both ventral and dorsal striatal volumes predicted early acquisition rates. Furthermore, this early-stage correlation between striatal volumes and learning held regardless of the cognitive flexibility demands of the game versions, whereas the predictive power of the dorsal striatal volumes held selectively for performance improvements in a game version emphasizing cognitive flexibility. These findings suggest a neuroanatomical basis for the superiority of training strategies that promote cognitive flexibility and transfer to untrained tasks.

Other sources: ScienceDaily, BussinessWeek, BBC NewsUniversity Press Release.

Erickson, K. L., Boot, W. R., Basak, C., Neider, M.B., Prakash, R. S., Voss, M.W., et al. (in press). Striatal volume predicts level of video game skill acquisition. Cerebral Cortex, DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhp293


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