Language Learning Enhanced by Massive Multiple Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) and the Underlying Behavioral and Neural Mechanisms

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Zhang, Yongjun ; Song, Hongwen ; Liu, Xiaoming ; Tang, Dinghong ; Chen, Yue-e ; Zhang, Xiaochu (2017)
  • Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.
  • Journal: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (issn: 1662-5161, vol: 11)
  • Related identifiers: pmc: PMC5332359, doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00095
  • Subject: reward | language learning | Neuroscience | interaction | Mini Review | neural mechanism | behavioral mechanism | Massive Multiple Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs)

Massive Multiple Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) have increased in popularity among children, juveniles, and adults since MMORPGs’ appearance in this digital age. MMORPGs can be applied to enhancing language learning, which is drawing researchers’ attention from different fields and many studies have validated MMORPGs’ positive effect on language learning. However, there are few studies on the underlying behavioral or neural mechanism of such effect. This paper reviews the educational application of the MMORPGs based on relevant macroscopic and microscopic studies, showing that gamers’ overall language proficiency or some specific language skills can be enhanced by real-time online interaction with peers and game narratives or instructions embedded in the MMORPGs. Mechanisms underlying the educational assistant role of MMORPGs in second language learning are discussed from both behavioral and neural perspectives. We suggest that attentional bias makes gamers/learners allocate more cognitive resources toward task-related stimuli in a controlled or an automatic way. Moreover, with a moderating role played by activation of reward circuit, playing the MMORPGs may strengthen or increase functional connectivity from seed regions such as left anterior insular/frontal operculum (AI/FO) and visual word form area to other language-related brain areas.
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