Striatal volume predicts level of video game skill acquisition

Kirk I. Erickson, Walter R. Boot, Chandramallika Basak, Mark B. Neider, Ruchika S. Prakash, Michelle W. Voss, Ann M. Graybiel, Daniel J. Simons, Monica Fabiani, Gabriele Gratton, Arthur F. Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Video game skills transfer to other tasks, but individual differences in performance and in learning and transfer rates make it difficult to identify the source of transfer benefits. We asked whether variability in initial acquisition and of improvement in performance on a demanding video game, the Space Fortress game, could be predicted by variations in the pretraining volume of either of 2 key brain regions implicated in learning and memory: the striatum, implicated in procedural learning and cognitive flexibility, and the hippocampus, implicated in declarative memory. We found that hippocampal volumes did not predict learning improvement but that striatal volumes did. Moreover, for the striatum, the volumes of the dorsal striatum predicted improvement in performance but the volumes of the ventral striatum did not. Both ventral and dorsal striatal volumes predicted early acquisition rates. Furthermore, this early-stage correlation between striatal volumes and learning held regardless of the cognitive flexibility demands of the game versions, whereas the predictive power of the dorsal striatal volumes held selectively for performance improvements in a game version emphasizing cognitive flexibility. These findings suggest a neuroanatomical basis for the superiority of training strategies that promote cognitive flexibility and transfer to untrained tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2522-2530
Number of pages9
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • basal ganglia
  • caudate nucleus
  • cognitive flexibility
  • nucleus accumbens
  • procedural learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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