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12 Hours of Videogames Boosted Brainpower for Seniors

Update Date: Sep 05, 2013 02:10 PM EDT
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Video games often get a bad reputation for promoting violent behaviors and sedentary lifestyles in young children and teenagers. Even though video games can be time consuming and do not require high levels of activity, several studies have found that these games are relatively harmless for the majority of the population that plays them. Certain video games, particularly the strategic ones could enhance cognitive functions. In a new study, researchers devised a video game that helped boost the brainpower of senior citizens.

The concept of brain training is nothing new. Researchers have been focused on using different brain training techniques to help seniors maintain their cognitive functions and prevent a rapid mental decline. For this study, researchers from the University of California created NeuroRacer solely for that purpose. NeuroRacer is a racing game aimed to promote multi-tasking, which is a skill that is often lost early on in seniors. The game requires the participants to use a joystick to navigate a simulated car through a road with various signs that pop up. When the player sees a specific sign, they must push a button. Other signs that pop up must be ignored.

The researchers downloaded the game, which was patented by Dr. Adam Gazzaley onto the laptops of the participants and had them play it for a little over a month. The participants were between the ages of 60 and 85. The researchers found that the seniors' working memory and attention span improved just after only 12 hours of playing. The researchers also discovered that the elderly performed better on driving-based obstacles than people in their 20s. After six months, the researchers were still able to observe the enhanced brainpower in the participants. The researchers believe that this game could help prevent mental decline in seniors.

"The ability to improve cognitive health in old age could be crucial in the search for new treatments and preventions for dementia," commented Dr. Simon Ridley, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society.

The study was published in Nature.  

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