International Collaboration Leads to Insight on Human Behavior and Cognition

Diankun Gong, standing, works with a participant playing a video game as part of a study. Weiyi Ma of the U of A and Gong are studying human behavior and cognition.
Photo Submitted

Diankun Gong, standing, works with a participant playing a video game as part of a study. Weiyi Ma of the U of A and Gong are studying human behavior and cognition.

Weiyi Ma, an assistant professor in the school of Human Environmental Science, is interested in how humans behave and develop. He and his colleague Diankun Gong, a researcher at the University of Electronic Science and Technology in Chengdu, China, approach this research topic in an unusual way — through studying video game players.

Ma and Gong began working together in 2013 at the Key Laboratory for Neuroinformation at the UEST, where Gong is currently a researcher in the area of cognitive neuroscience. Ma left China for Australia in 2014, and he started his role as an assistant professor at the U of A in 2017, but the two maintained their research collaboration.

"Gaming is a big part of our modern way of life," explained Ma. "Worldwide, 2.2 billion people spend 3 billion hours per week. In our research, we use video gaming as a medium to study human behavior in a digitized world."

In order to study how the human brain responds to video games, Ma, Gong and their colleagues at the Key Laboratory use behavioral measurements and technology such as electroencephalogram, or EEG tests, and magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. They compare the effects of gaming on the brains of expert gamers to the effects on amateurs who have less prior exposure to video games. Using these techniques, Ma and Gong have shown that video games affect the brain in many different ways, including effects on white and gray matter, neural plasticity and visual selective attention.

Currently, the two researchers are studying what happens when habitual gamers reduce their time playing video games. They are also investigating whether oxytocin, a hormone known to increase empathy and generosity, can help people collaborate more effectively in a digital environment.

Ma explained that this field of research has applications for many different fields. For example, research has found that sports games have similar effects on sensory development as physical participation in sports. Video games could also be useful in the field of rehabilitation and communication disorders, as therapy tools to help patients increase communication and motor skills. At the University of Arkansas, Ma collaborates with researchers in psychology and music cognition.


Camilla Shumaker, director of science and research communications
University Relations


Journalism Students Investigate Child Abuse Reporting Practices

U of A students take part in research that shows half of U.S. abuse deaths are not being reported.

Mechanical Engineering Grad Students Earn Research Honors

Adedoyin Abe and Mahyar Afshar-Mohajer earned awards for their poster presentations at the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers Conference in Nashville in late May.

Talent Search STEAM Camp at U of A June 16-18

Area students will attend workshops on about science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, get a taste of college experience..

U of A's MICRO Lab Reaches its One-Year Milestone

The MicroCT Imaging Consortium for Research and Outreach Lab, or MICRO, has allowed faculty, staff and students to scan a wide a variety of objects for visualization. 

CMS Operations Coordinator Earns CPP Designation

David Owens, operations coordinator at the University of Arkansas Community Music School, has earned the Certified Program Planner credential.

Newswire Daily