Honors Theses

Neurocognitive Capabilities and Physiological Responses to Cognitive Stress as well as General Health and Fitness Measurements in Competitive Gamers versus Non-Gamers


Anne R. Crecelius


Health and Sport Science

Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Thesis


Competitive video gaming, also known as esports, is a growing industry worldwide. The physiological and cognitive impact of various training and play regimes has gained interest recently. The aim of this study was to characterize potential cognitive and physiological differences among competitive gamers and non- gamers while accounting for fitness levels. Specifically, the physiological parameters compared were differences in stress response (as measured by changes in heart rate and blood pressure) due to cognitive load (via various cognitive assessments) and fitness measurements such as body composition and health and skill related fitness components. Twenty-four total participants were studied [n=12 in gamers (10M, 2F, play >5 hrs/wk) and non-gamers (10M, 2F)]. The six different cognitive tests used were to measure various neurocognitive components that have previously been shown to be significantly different in gamers: the Stroop Test (cognitive set shifting, inhibitory control, and set twitching), Modified Card Sorting Test (problem solving and abstract thinking), Finger Tapping Test (psychomotor speed), Trail Making Test (speeded visual search and tracking), Spatial Processing Task (spatial recognition), and Iowa Gambling Test (risky decision making) were administered via a computer (Millisecond). After completing cognitive testing, each subject’s health-related fitness components (muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and estimated aerobic capacity) were measured with a handgrip dynamometer, Situp Bleep test, V Sit and Reach Test, and Modified Bruce Treadmill, respectively. Skill-related fitness components (power, balance, hand-eye coordination) were measured with vertical jump, the Balance Error Scoring System, and the Alternate Hand Wall Ball Test, respectively. Body anthropometrics was measured through height, weight, BMI, body fat percentage (via bioelectrical impedance analysis). Of the cognitive components assessed, the only significant difference was that the video gamers had significantly higher average and dominant hands scores for the Finger Tapping Test and non-dominant scores that were trending towards significance versus the non-gamers. The systemic physiological responses to the cognitive testing were minimal and did not differ between the two groups. Given the potential impact of fitness on cognitive performance and sympathoexcitation, the fitness levels of the participants were not different. Thus, when physical activity is accounted for, competitive gamers and non-gamers perform similarly in most cognitive tasks and have similar physiological responses to this stress.

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Undergraduate research


Medicine and Health Sciences | Sports Sciences

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