Cognitive skills are like a muscle: they can be trained and improved over time. This goes for response time, too. By strengthening our cognitive skills, we can improve how quickly we react to stimuli and therefore improve performance. But how? The answer comes down to the brain and its neural networks. 

If you challenge your mind on a regular basis, you can strengthen the brain’s circuit of neurons, which is responsible for looking after cognition and perception. By frequently training reaction time, the brain's connections will become stronger and, in turn, require less time to react to stimuli.

However, to successfully train specific skills, it’s important to mix up the environment in which they would normally be used. For example, an esports player can improve the different skills needed to play a game competently - namely focus, hand-eye coordination and working memory - by training the brain outside of gameplay, and away from a computer. To the surprise of many esports players, spending hours playing games won’t significantly advance reaction times. The magic happens when you step out of your comfort zone.

The general rule is: the bigger the range of everyday life settings you become proficient in, the stronger you’ll become in-game. This is because training our cognitive skills enables additional connections and structures in the brain thus expanding its ‘road system’. The bigger this system and the amount of connections become, the better the cognitive abilities will be. Only practicing skills in-game will limit the development of these ‘road tracks’ significantly.