Competitive video-gaming, also known as eSports, is rapidly growing to occupy the role of traditional sporting events. eSports has become a billion-dollar industry, supports professional leagues, has global reach via online tournaments and is being considered for inclusion in the 2024 Paris Olympics. In eSports, physical athletic ability has a lesser role than cognitive factors, such as visual perception and motor control, coordination and strategy.
Thus, eSports offers the opportunity to investigate plasticity in isolation and in a wide range of cognitive systems.
Video games have become a valuable focus for research in relation to enhancement and transfer of cognitive abilities1. We will extend this field using a multidisciplinary approach to investigate how perceptual, cognitive and visuomotor skills of e-athletes differ from the general population and how his relates to the amount and type of eSports experience. This will provide a window into how we adapt to the digital world.
We will test e-athletes of different levels of expertise and manipulate video game exposure to establish causal links to changes in a range of perceptual, visuomotor and cognitive processes. We will combine behavioural and electrophysiological (EEG) methods to investigate the neurocognitive systems which are potentially enhanced in e-athletes. We will use a novel visual paradigm to assess visual working memory, control and selection of attention and suppression of task-irrelevant visual information2. We will examine group differences in resting EEG power spectra at rest to establish cortical functional connectivity2. These measures will provide detailed insight into individual differences2,3 and effects of practice4 contributing to e-athletic ability.
In a second research strand we will use perceptual measures and eyetracking technology to test visual sampling efficiency of e-athletes in a dynamical Virtual Reality environment. Since eSports are mostly played on typical 2D screens, testing visual function in an immersive VR environment will allow us to contrast domain-specific and domain-general learning, such as the use of 3D cues and performance outside the experienced field of view. Certain visual functions may be improved by video-game playing, while others may be reduced. We will explore whether 3D motion perception is altered as a consequence of conflict between stereopsis and 3D self-motion cues using methods we are currently using to assess 3D motion perception deficits in clinical populations5.
We will be looking to work in tandem with the eSports industry in understanding stakeholders, recruit participants and answer relevant research questions. The project could be suitable to candidate holding degree in psychology, neuroscience, computer science or equivalent, who might also be interested in pursuing a career in R & D within the entertainment industry.
The supervisory team and the department at large have excellent track record in the field of 3D perception, eye-tracking, EEG imaging and psychophysics and will support the applicant with the techniques employed.
Techniques that will be undertaken during the project
-Electroencephalography & quantitative electroencephalography in conjunction with visual working memory & attention tasks: We will analyse visually evoked potentials, resting-state power spectra and coherence to examine neurocognitive systems underpinning behaviour.
-Psychophysics: We will measure how participants use 3D cues to represent their visual world.
-Eye-tracking: We will record eye movements with video-based eye trackers to investigate the efficiency in sampling visual information.
-Immersive Virtual Reality: We will use VR to test visual function (3D) with a wide field of view.
Available to UK/EU applicants only
Application information https://www2.le.ac.uk/research-degrees/doctoral-training-partnerships/bbsrc
1. Green, C. S., Pouget, A., & Bavelier, D. (2010). Improved probabilistic inference as a general learning mechanism with action video games. Current Biology, 20, 1–7.
2. Fuggetta, G. Bennett, M. Duke, P.A. (2015). An electrophysiological insight into visual attention mechanisms underlying schizotypy. Biological Psychology. 109. 206-221.
3. Fuggetta, G. Bennett, M. Duke, P.A. & Young, A.M.J. (2014). Quantitative electroencephalography as a biomarker for proneness toward developing psychosis. Schizophrenia Research. 153 (1-3). 68-77.
4. Fuggetta, G. Duke, P.A. (2017). Enhancing links between visual short-term memory, visual attention and cognitive control processes through practice: An electrophysiological insight. Biological Psychology. 126. 48-60.
5. How is depth perception affected by nystagmus? Fight For Sight Award SGA_20160812_001 to Duke. P.A.