Action video game playing is associated with improved visual sensitivity, but not alterations in visual sensory memory.

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Action video game playing has been experimentally linked to a number of perceptual and cognitive improvements. These benefits are captured through a wide range of psychometric tasks and have led to the proposition that action video game experience may promote the ability to extract statistical evidence from sensory stimuli. Such an advantage could arise from a number of possible mechanisms: improvements in visual sensitivity, enhancements in the capacity or duration for which information is retained in visual memory, or higher-level strategic use of information for decision making. The present study measured the capacity and time course of visual sensory memory using a partial report performance task as a means to distinguish between these three possible mechanisms. Sensitivity measures and parameter estimates that describe sensory memory capacity and the rate of memory decay were compared between individuals who reported high evels and low levels of action video game experience. Our results revealed a uniform increase in partial report accuracy at all stimulus-to-cue delays for action video game players but no difference in the rate or time course of the memory decay. The present findings suggest that action video game playing may be related to enhancements in the initial sensitivity to visual stimuli, but not to a greater retention of information in iconic memory buffers.





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Appelbaum, L Gregory, Matthew S Cain, Elise F Darling and Stephen R Mitroff (2013). Action video game playing is associated with improved visual sensitivity, but not alterations in visual sensory memory. Atten Percept Psychophys, 75(6). pp. 1161–1167. 10.3758/s13414-013-0472-7 Retrieved from

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Lawrence Gregory Appelbaum

Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Greg Appelbaum is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the Duke University School of Medicine. 

Dr. Appelbaum's research interests primarily concern the brain mechanisms underlying visual cognition, how these capabilities differ among individuals, and how they can be improved through behavioral, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation interventions. Within the field of cognitive neuroscience, his research has addressed visual perception, sensorimotor function, executive function, decision-making, and learning/expertise. In this research, he has utilized a combination of behavioral psychophysics coupled with the neuroscience techniques of electroencephalography (EEG), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). 


Stephen Mitroff

Associate Research Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience

NOTE: As of 8/1/2015 Dr. Mitroff and his lab will move to The George Washington University in Washington D.C.

Lab focus: My lab has an active interest in visual search—how we find targets amongst distractors. With a dual goal of informing both academic theory and applied "real-world" performance, we explore various influences on search. We work with a variety of expert groups to understand the effects of experience and expertise, and to reveal individual differences in performance. For example, we work with radiologists, orthodontists, and airport X-ray operators. With support from the TSA, we have a lab at Raleigh-Durham airport and are testing all of the TSA Officers there. As well, we explore aspects of the search process itself (e.g., how often targets occur and whether one or more targets can occur in the same search array). The lab is currently examining many aspects of "multiple-target visual search"—where more than one possible target can be present in the same search. Multiple-target searches are common in real-world settings (baggage screening, radiology) and they are especially error prone; we are examining what factors affect accuracy to both further cognitive theories and to improve searchers' performance. Another thread of my research program is focused on the effects of prior experiences and individual differences on the malleability of visual cognition. We explore how certain activities, traits, personalities, and predilections affect visual and attentional abilities. We work with a variety of groups to examine how different individual differences relate to visual and cognitive performance. Related to the above research lines, I also work with Nike to examine visual training from a sports perspective. I am an advisor to Nike's SPARQ Sensory Performance group and have multiple projects focused on the effects of stroboscopic vision on visual and attentional abilities. We work with a large variety of study participants, including elite athletes (Duke Basketball; Carolina Hurricanes), to understand the malleability of performance.

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