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.
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.
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.
New cure for dementia?
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!
Maybe it’s time to start playing chess or BrainAge regularly?