Playing video games improves aging brain function

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We know from previous blogs that there is an escalating incidence of dementia.

We know that the strongest risk factor for developing dementia is old age.

However, we also know that dementia is not an inevitable consequence of old age.

Why do some older adults get dementia and others don’t?

Instead of looking for dementia risk factors, some researchers have turned the tables on this question, and looking at things that might be protective, reduce the likelihood of age related dementia.

This could translate into activities or behaviors  anyone could use to lower their dementia risk.

For example, regular exercise and social stimulation have been shown to lower dementia risk.

New research published in Nature looks at the relationship between brain function and video games performance in aging adults.

The investigators designed a game called NeuroRacer in which the player drives a virtual car along a track and must respond to the appearance of specific road signs by pressing a button. The trick is that the player has to attend to one type of sign only, ignore the others, and continue “driving” all the while.  Then, as the participants learned the game and improved their scores, the game gets harder and harder.

neuroracer

The study had 46 participants, aged 60-85, engage in 12 hours of the training over the course of a month. During that time, they vastly improved their performance, and at the end of that study they played just as well as 20-year olds.  Furthermore, these gains in brain function persisted for more than 6-months, and more importantly weren’t limited to gaming – study participants also showed improved attention and working memory.

Click here to find out more.

New cure for dementia?

Probably not.

However, this study does demonstrate that older adults can still re-shape their brain connections, and also re-affirms that the old adage, if you don’t use it you lose it, also includes brain function!
mitch-april-2013

Maybe it’s time to start playing chess or BrainAge regularly?

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4 thoughts on “Playing video games improves aging brain function

  1. In response to concern about how learning can change the structure of the human brain and the function of brain plasticity we just embedded a graphic “Neuroplasticity: The Remarkable Ability of Our Brain to Adapt” which you can view at here: http://www.topcounselingschools.org/neuroplasticity/

    If you liked this then please spread the word by sharing it with your blog readers. Any ways, I have enjoyed your blog completely and found it very revealing with a bunch of smart commentary. Good luck in your future writing endeavors. I’ll be waiting for your response.

  2. Wouldn’t it be useful if these software packages and online training programs were available to public libraries. That way individuals who lack the funds to purchase the programs and may be on fixed incomes – will also have access to these valuable neurocognitive training programs. This way more older Americans and others can share in the benefits of enhaced memory and concentration.

    • I agree. However, any cognitive challenge that gets progressively harder with continued use will likely have the same effect. The Nintendo DS game BrainAge is readily available, gets harder and harder the more you play, and keeps track of how you are doing. Even playing chess against your partner regularly will get progressively harder. The message here is that the worse thing you can do is sit at home and watch TV all day.

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