Page last updated at 09:39 GMT, Monday, 7 September 2009 10:39 UK

Memory prowess linked to gaming

Sudoku puzzle
Solving Sudoku puzzles could enhance working memory

Video war games could enhance a key element of intelligence that is vital to success in life, an expert has claimed.

Spending time on the Facebook networking site and solving Sudoku may have the same effect, according to psychologist Dr Tracy Alloway.

However, text messaging, micro-blogging on "Twitter" and watching YouTube were likely to weaken "working memory".

Working memory involves the ability to remember information and to use it.

Dr Alloway, from the University of Stirling, has extensively studied working memory and believes it to be far more important to success and happiness than IQ.

At a job interview, a candidate will employ working memory to match answers to questions in the most impressive way.

'Endless stream'

Her team has developed a working memory training programme that greatly increased the performance of slow-learning children aged 11 to 14 at a school in Durham.

After eight weeks of "Jungle Memory" training, the children saw 10 point improvements in IQ, literacy and numeracy tests.

Some who started off close to the bottom of the class ended up near the top.

"It was a massive effect", said Dr Alloway, who is discussing the issue at the start of the British Science Festival at the University of Surrey in Guildford later.

Video games that involve planning and strategy, such as those from the Total War series, may also train working memory, Dr Alloway believes.

"I'm not saying they're good for your socialisation skills, but they do make you use your working memory," she said.

"You're keeping track of past actions and mapping the actions you're going to take."

Sudoku also stretched the working memory, as did keeping up with friends on Facebook, she said.

But the "instant" nature of texting, Twitter and YouTube was not healthy for working memory.

"On Twitter you receive an endless stream of information, but it's also very succinct," said Dr Alloway. "You don't have to process that information.

"Your attention-span is being reduced and you're not engaging your brain and improving serve connections."

She said there was evidence linking TV viewing with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) while extensive texting was associated with lower IQ scores.

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