The Cognitive Neuroscience of Video Games

In this seminar we will look at the way video games impact cognitive function.  This will include examining two thematically related, but functionally distinct literatures – one focused on examining the impact of commercially available entertainment video games (i.e., games designed with no particular cognitive impact in mind, but which, in some cases do massively alter cognitive abilities) and the other focused on the impact of games specifically designed to enhance cognitive function (i.e., games that are sometimes given the moniker of “brain training games” although we will see in this seminar why that label is problematic). We will discuss underlying theories, methodological approaches, empirical findings, and meta-analytic summaries of these literatures. Further, like all fields that assess the impact of ever-changing cultural phenomena, we will discuss the fact that research methods must constantly adapt to keep pace with the current state of affairs. This is particularly true in this domain, where, for instance, changes in the types of commercial games that exist, and in the history and patterns of game playing in the population of game players, increasingly necessitate new approaches to assessing the impact of games on cognition. 

detailed description

instructor: C. Shawn Green, University of Wisconsin-madison


Dr. C. Shawn Green is an expert in cognitive learning and neuroplasticity, with an emphasis on the impact of new media (e.g., video games) on the brain and behavior. In particular, he, along with his long-time collaborator Daphne Bavelier, have spent nearly 20 years examining the transferable cognitive benefits that arise from playing one particular sub-type of video game, known as action video games. He is the author of over 60 research articles published in journals such as Nature, Current Biology, Annual Review of Neuroscience, Psychological Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences. He has presented his research at venues such as the White House, the United Nations, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  His work has also been featured in a host of popular media outlets such as Scientific American, Wired, the NYTimes, and on the recent Netflix series, Bill Nye Saves the World