Video game sharpens seniors' cognitive skills
By Ben Coxworth
May 2, 2013
It’s a sad fact of life that as we age, our cognitive skills decline. In particular, the “executive function” of our mind diminishes – this function is a key aspect of our memory, attention, perception, and problem solving skills. There may be help, however. Scientists from the University of Iowa are now claiming that by playing a specific video game, test subjects aged 50 and over were able to stop and even reverse the trend.
A team led by Prof. Fredric Wolinsky started with a group of 681 volunteers, and divided them into four groups. One of the groups was assigned to do computer-based crossword puzzles (as a control) for a total of 10 hours. The other three groups played an existing video game known as Road Tour – one group played for 10 hours in a lab, one group for 14 hours in a lab, and one group for 10 hours at home.
Within the game, users are briefly shown a vehicle and then called upon to pick it out from a rotating circular display of possibilities, amidst a number of distractions. As with most games, players advance as they improve, with each new level of game play proving more challenging than the last.
When tested a year later, subjects who played the game for 10 hours reportedly gained and retained an average of at least three years’ worth of cognitive improvement. The 14-hour group experienced an average gain of four years. The maximum improvement measured in any one individual participant was seven years.
As compared to the crossword puzzle-solving control group, the game players showed a particular improvement in “concentration, nimbleness with shifting from one mental task to another, and the speed at which new information is processed.”
Source: University of Iowa