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Cognitive Motor Performance Peaks at Age 24, Study Finds

Apr 15, 2014 04:03 PM EDT
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A study of players of the popular real-time strategy game StarCraft II suggests that cognitive motor performance peaks at age 24.

StarCraft II is, according to the researchers behind the study "a ruthless competitive intergalactic computer war game that players often undertake to win serious money."

In a study of game data from 3,305 StarCraft II players aged 16-44 years old, researchers from Simon Fraser University used thousands of hours of collected game data to assess cognitive-based decisions performed at a variety of skill levels.

The researcher team, which included a psychologist and a statistician and actuarial scientist, used the game data to assess how players responded their opponents and and how long it took players to react.

"After around 24 years of age, players show slowing in a measure of cognitive speed that is known to be important for performance," said Joe Thompson, who conducted the research as part of his doctoral thesis. "This cognitive performance decline is present even at higher levels of skill."

However, older players were still able to remain competitive by making use of short-cut keyboard commands that seemed to act as a way of compensating for declining speed in executing real-time decisions, Thompson said.

"Older players, though slower, seem to compensate by employing simpler strategies and using the game's interface more efficiently than younger players, enabling them to retain their skill, despite cognitive motor-speed loss."

"[Our] cognitive-motor capacities are not stable across our adulthood, but are constantly in flux, and that our day-to-day performance is a result of the constant interplay between change and adaptation," he continued.

As the modern world continues to become more reliant on computers, Thompson said that more big data like what was used in his research will become available, which will open the doors for more big-data research.

The research is published in the journal PLOS One.

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