A between classes quickie:
Researchers can predict your video game aptitude by imaging your brain, EurekAlert: Researchers report that they can predict "with unprecedented accuracy" how well you will do on a complex task such as a strategic video game simply by analyzing activity in a specific region of your brain.
The findings, published in the online journal PLoS ONE, offer detailed insights into the brain structures that facilitate learning, and may lead to the development of training strategies tailored to individual strengths and weaknesses.
The new approach used established brain imaging techniques in a new way. Instead of measuring how brain activity differs before and after subjects learn a complex task, the researchers analyzed background activity in the basal ganglia, a group of brain structures known to be important for procedural learning, coordinated movement and feelings of reward.
Using magnetic resonance imaging and a method known as multivoxel pattern analysis, the researchers found significant differences in patterns of a particular type of MRI signal, called T2*, in the basal ganglia of study subjects. These differences enabled researchers to predict between 55 and 68 percent of the variance (differences in performance) among the 34 people who later learned to play the game.
"There are many, many studies, hundreds perhaps, in which psychometricians, people who do the quantitative analysis of learning, try to predict from SATs, GREs, MCATS or other tests how well you're going to succeed at something," said University of Illinois psychology professor and Beckman Institute director Art Kramer, who led the research. These methods, along with studies that look at the relative size of specific-brain structures, have had some success predicting learning, Kramer said, "but never to this degree in a task that is so complex." ...
After having their brains imaged, participants spent 20 hours learning to play Space Fortress, a video game developed at the University of Illinois in which players try to destroy a fortress without losing their own ship to one of several potential hazards. None of the subjects had much experience with video games prior to the study.
The game, which was designed to test participants' real-world cognitive skills, is quite challenging, Kramer said. ... The findings should not be interpreted to mean that some people are destined to succeed or fail at a given task or learning challenge, however, Kramer said. "We know that many of these components of brain structure and function are changeable," he said.
[Not sure this has much to do with economics, but it's all I have right now -- feel free to talk about whatever in comments.]