The Benefits of Playing Action-Like Video Games on Salience Processing

Franceschini, S., Puccio, G., Bertoni, S., Gori, S., Mascheretti, S., Fusina, F., Angrilli, A., Facoetti, A. (2024). The Benefits of Playing Action-Like Video Games on Salience Processing. International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction, 1–14.


Play is essential for sensorimotor, cognitive and social development, because it enhances the experience-based long-term plasticity, stimulating the optimal interplay between the stimulus-driven and goal-directed attentional control. However, the emotional, psychophysiological and neurocognitive mechanisms associated with a single game session are not fully understood. In a single-blind randomized-crossover experiment, we investigated the short-term effects upon emotional, psychophysiological and neurocognitive functioning after a short play session with Mario Kart and with a puzzle board game, in a sample of 60 typical young adults (n = 44) and poor readers (n = 16). By enhancing positive and reducing negative emotions, playing an action-like video game increased heart rate and salience processing in both typical and poor readers, whereas an improvement in reading speed was reported only in poor readers. The stimulation of the salience network by play-driven emotional, multisensory and sensorimotor activation, can transiently enhance the feed-forward functioning of the perception and action pathways.