Video Games Seniors Study: Can Help Brain Function

Science, Technology

Share this Post

A recent CBS news story could change your life... through video games! Researchers working out of UC San Francisco are claiming that they have developed a video game that can reverse the negative effects of aging on the brain and improve cognitive control for years to come.

The game is called NeuroRacer, and it was tested on subjects aged mid-20's to mid-70's. One of the study's findings included that multitasking skills declined significantly with age.

The game races players along a windy, hilly track while asking them to knock down certain roadsigns with their right hand. The game's difficulty increases if the game senses your performance increasing. To the research team's surprise, the seniors improved so much in four weeks that they were earning higher scores than untrained 20-year-old gamers. Even more surprising was the revelation that the skills persisted without practice for at least six months!

Dr. Adam Gazzaley, who worked with the developers to create NeuroRacer and led the UC San Francisco research team, has said that "is the most grabbing thing here: we transferred the benefit from inside the game to different cognitive abilities [but] there’s a big leap between what we did here and the real world." Real world multitasking seems unaffected or harmed by divided attention, and in order to make this into an awesome new science, Gazzaley would remind readers that the mental tools we use to multitask must have the same scientific backing as the exercise regimens used by professional athletes.

Earl K. Miller, a neuroscientist with MIT who was unaffiliated with the research, said that these findings "show you can take older people who aren’t functioning well and make them cognitively younger through this training... it's a very big deal." So much so that the journal put the phrase "Game Changer" on its cover.

The team's research paper was published yesterday in the publication Nature.

[Image is the cover of the recent journal edition of Nature]