Brain Train - reaction time and videogames

Testing the relationship between the types of videogames people play and reaction times
Taighan Galbraith
Grade 5


I hypothesize that people who play fast paced action video games will have faster reaction times than participants who play slower  video games.

I also predict that people that play fast or slow video games will have faster reaction times than non video game players. 


Videogames and the brain:

More than one billion people play video games every day and there are differing views about what video games do to the brain. Some people say they are good for the brain, others say they are not. Even though some have said video games cause violent behaviour, there has not been a complete answer as no one has found enough proof (Nichols, 2017).   

What is known is that video games change the structure of the brain. Those changes have been found to be both positive and negative. Studies thus far have found that videogames have positive effects on attention and motor skills but they can also have negative effects due to the higher risk of developing an addiction (Paulaus, 2017).

More specifically studies have found video games improve capacity in the frontal lobe, which is important for attention (Marengo, 2014), and areas in the brain responsible for visual and spatial information and memory (Nichols, 2017). They also found that those that those that play fast video games have better selective attention, required for fast movements over slow game players (Paulaus, 2017).

How to test how fast someone reacts

Reaction time tests were first performed by Franciscus Cornelis Donders. He performed experiments using reaction time tasks in the early 1860s.

He did the following tests:

1. Simple reaction time test:
2. Choice response time task.
3. A go/no-go discrimination response time task.

The simple reaction time tests how fast it takes a person to respond physically to a visual cue

Physical process of a reaction

What happens in the body during a reaction time test? 

Many processes happen when we do a simple reaction time test. First, light waves from an image to into our eyes and hit our retina, rods and cones. Then the image is sent to the brain. The message is sent to the opposite side of the brain and toward the back of the brain  which is the area in the brain that handles visual information. Then the information goes to the front of the brain which decides to react and that message is then sent to the motor part of the brain. Motor messages from the brain are then sent down the spinal cord and then out to the muscles which move as a response to the stimulus. (Carter, R., 2014, p. 124).

All of this happens in a quarter to half of a second! (Salk Institute, 2005)

What the research has made me curious about.

I want to see if there are benefits to playing video games, like improved planning or coordination. Some people say it is really bad for you, while others say it is good. Research has found that playing video games causes changes in the brain (Palaus et al., 2017) Could those changes in the brain be positive?

I am also wondering if there are benefits to playing different types of video games. Some people play fast paced games and others play slow paced games. Research saya that those that play slower video games had better attention (Nichols, 2017), but there has been no tests to see if there is a difference in speed of fast video game players and slow video game players


Manipulated variable (not manipulated in the experiment, but used for categorization): Type of video game participants play (Fast paced, slower paced, non video game players)

Dependent variable: Reaction times

Controlled variables:

  • Testing type (same test)
  • Number of trials (5)
  • Testing method (on laptop)
  • Testing process (followed same process for each testing session)
  • Testing time of day (lunch time)
  • Environment (at Westmount in classroom)


1. Participants were asked to state what type of videogame they played the most. The three categories are:

A. Fast paced games (examples below)

  • First person shooter games (eg. Fortnite)
  • Rhythm games (eg. Beatsaber)
  • Bullet hell (eg. Mega Man)
  • Sport games
  • Action / adventure (eg. Super Mario

B. Slower paced video games ( examples below)

  • Sandbox games (Minecraft)
  • Exploration based games (Zelda)
  • Puzzle games 

C. Do not play video games

2. Each participant was asked to do the online reaction time test at, one at a time and the results were recorded with their video game choice. Each person did five test trials and the average of all trials was recorded.

3. Results were collected and grouped into three groups: 1. Fast paced action games, 2. Slower paced exploration games, 3. non-videogame player

4. Group scores were tabulated in Ms Excel and averages were taken for each group and compared based on average. Bar chart and box and whisker charts used to show difference in average and rage of results.


I tested 73 participants in total and grouped participants into three groups, with the following results.

  Count (n) Average reaction time
Fast Paced 22 0.33
Slow Paced 45 0.37
No Videogames 6 0.40
Overall 73 0.36


Data Overview 

Slow - Game Fast - Game No Game
0.495 0.266 0.332
0.278 0.268 0.586
0.278 0.285 0.447
0.288 0.289 0.385
0.302 0.29 0.318
0.307 0.302 0.319
0.307 0.317  
0.309 0.318  
0.314 0.329  
0.325 0.329  
0.326 0.333  
0.328 0.351  
0.337 0.384  
0.341 0.41  
0.345 0.437  
0.347 0.351  
0.352 0.341  
0.365 0.305  
0.367 0.451  
0.369 0.241  
0.37 0.292  
0.377 0.307  

People who play faster paced video games had faster overall reaction times than those that played slower paced video games and those who didn't play videogames at all. Those that didn't play video games had the slowest reaction times. 


Participants who play faster paced video games had faster overall reaction times (average: 0.33 seconds) than those that played slower paced video games (average:0.37 seconds).

Those that played fast and slow video games had faster reaction times than those who didn’t play video games at all (average: 0.40 seconds).  


There was a range of reaction times for each group, but overall: the fast paced video game group had a faster range of reaction times than the slow paced video game players the non video game players. 


I hypothesized that people who play fast paced action video games will have faster reaction times than participants who play slower  video games. I also predicted that people that play fast or slow video games will have faster reaction times than non video game players. 

Based on the results of my test, my hypothesis was correct.

Further experimentation is needed to show direct cause and effect related to whether playing faster videogames improves overall reaction times. 


If faster game play is related to faster reaction times, it is possible that playing faster paced videogames could help a person improve coordination and faster response times. 

For example: Playing faster paced videogames may help a person improve hand/eye coordination and faster response times for. 

  • Simulation training
  • Musical training

MORE IMPORTANTLY THOUGH: It shows that video games may be beneficial so parents can RELAX already!

Sources Of Error

Environmental - tests were done in three different classrooms. All classrooms were generally quiet, but they were all slighly different. The difference in environment could have resulted in different reaction times. 

Participant understanding - Some participants thought the test ended earlier and took longer to respond to the last reaction time test. This may have impacted their average score. When this happened and I noticed, I had the participant redo the reaction time.

Game pace grouping - Types of games were grouped together based on game play pace. What some consider fast and slow may differ from one person to another. 



Carter, R. (2014). The Human Brain Book. D.K.

Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour. (n.d.). Biography F.C. Donders.

Marengo, L. (2014). What happens to our brain when we play video games?

Math is fun. (n.d.). Reaction Time Test.

Paulus, M., Marron, E., Viejo-Sobera, R., Redolar-Ripoll, D. (2017). Neural basis of video gaming: a systematic review. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Nichols, H. (2017). How video games affect the brain. Medical News Today.

Salk Institute. (2005, October 27). Brain's Response To Visual Stimuli Helps Us To Focus On What We Should See, Rather Than All There Is To See. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 18, 2021 from



Thank you to my teacher Mr. Earle who helped me conduct my experiment. He helped me over three lunch hours collect over 70 results! I couldn't have done it without his help.