No matter what your brain size is it's what you do with it that counts
University of Edinburgh..
US researchers found they could predict how well an amateur player might perform on a game
US researchers found they could predict how well an amateur player might perform on a game by measuring the volume of key sections of the brain.
Writing in the journal Cerebral Cortex, they suggest their findings could have wider implications for understanding the differences in learning rates.
There is broad acceptance of a link between brain size and intelligence.
However it remains a complicated picture. Within the animal kingdom some smaller brains appear superior to many larger ones: the monkey's compared with the horse, for instance, or the human and the elephant.
But there are certain parts of the brain which can be disproportionately larger, and this may explain some differences in cognitive ability - between individuals as well as species.
A multi-disciplinary team from the University of Illinois, the University of Pittsburgh and Massachusetts Institute of Technology recruited 39 adults - 10 men, 29 women - who had spent less than three hours each week playing video games in the previous two years.
MRI scans showed participants with a larger nucleus accumbens, which is part of the brain's reward centre, outperformed others in the first few hours, perhaps due to the "sense of achievement and the emotional reward" accompanying achievement in the earliest stages of learning, the team speculated.
But those players who ultimately performed best on the game in which priorities changed had larger sections deep in the centre of the brain, known as the caudate and putamen.
This makes sense, because these areas have been linked to learning procedures and new skills, as well as adapting to changing environments. These people could do a number of things at once. Think of it like driving a car, as well as looking at the road, you're tampering with your GPS, and talking to your passengers," says Prof Arthur Kramer of the University of Illinois.
"The great thing about using a video game rather than methodical cognitive tests is that it brings us a step closer to the real world and the challenges people face."
In total, the team calculated that nearly a quarter of the difference in performance could be predicted by measuring the volume of the brain.