Performance Gains in an Open Skill Video-Game Task: The Role of Neural Efficiency and Neural Proficiency

Filho, Edson orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8548-4651, Husselman, Tammy-Ann orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-3206-5496, Zugic, Luca, Penna, Eduardo and Taneva, Nadezhda (2022) Performance Gains in an Open Skill Video-Game Task: The Role of Neural Efficiency and Neural Proficiency. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback . ISSN 1090-0586

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We examined whether practice in an open skill video-game task would lead to changes in performance, attention, motivation, perceived effort, and theta, alpha, and beta waves. Specifically, we were interested on whether potential performance gains from practice would be primarily explained by the neural efficiency (i.e., cortical idling) or the neural proficiency hypothesis (i.e., mix of heightened and reduced activation across the cortex). To this end, we asked 16 novice participants (8 males and 8 females; Mage = 23.13 years) to play a Nintendo Wii video-game shooting task, namely Link’s Crossbow Training. Pre-test scores, which were followed by an acquisition phase, were compared to post-test scores. Performance and subjective data were recorded for each trial and EEG data was continuously recorded using the portable EEGO System. Our findings revealed that performance increased while attention decreased at post-test, thereby confirming that practice leads to performance gains and reduces attentional overload. No changes in motivation or perceived effort were observed, perhaps because effort is a gestalt multidimension construct and video-gaming is an inherently motivating activity. EEG frequency analysis revealed that, for the most part, performance gains were accompanied by increased cortical activity across frequencies bands, thus lending primary support to the neural proficiency hypothesis. Accordingly, neurofeedback interventions to aid motor learning should teach performers not only how to silence their brains (i.e., quiescence state linked to automaticity and “flow”) but also how to amplify task-relevant brain networks.

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