Abstract

Action video game players (AVGPs) outperform non–action video game players (NAVGPs) on a range of perceptual and attentional tasks. Although several studies have reported neuroplastic changes within the frontoparietal networks of attention in AVGPs, little is known about possible changes in attentional modulation in low-level visual areas. To assess the contribution of these different levels of neural processing to the perceptual and attentional enhancements noted in AVGPs, visual event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded from 14 AVGPs and 14 NAVGPs during a target discrimination task that required participants to attend to rapid sequences of Gabor patches under either focused or divided attention conditions. AVGPs responded faster to target Gabors in the focused attention condition compared with the NAVGPs. Correspondingly, ERPs to standard Gabors revealed a more pronounced negativity in the time range of the parietally generated anterior N1 component in AVGPs compared with NAVGPs during focused attention. In addition, the P2 component of the visual ERP was more pronounced in AVGPs than in NAVGPs over the hemisphere contralateral to the stimulus position in response to standard Gabors. Contrary to predictions, however, attention-modulated occipital components generated in the low-level extrastriate visual pathways, including the P1 and posterior N1, showed no significant group differences. Thus, the main neural signature of enhanced perceptual and attentional control functions in AVGPs appears linked to an attention-dependent parietal process, indexed by the anterior N1 component, and possibly to more efficient higher-order perceptual processing, indexed by the P2 component.

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