Keeping the brain nimble in older adulthood may be as simple as playing a video game, according to researchers who compared the thought-process benefits of crossword puzzles with a computer program that increased users’ mental speed and agility.
Analyzing 681 healthy people aged 50 and up, scientists found that those who played a ‘Road Tour’ video game for at least 10 hours — which required them to identify “vehicles” among an ever-faster array — gained at least three years of cognitive (mental skill) improvement after one year. A group that received four additional hours of training with the game improved their thinking abilities by four years.
“The bad news about brain plasticity is that . . . we start slowing down in our early 30s and it continues. The good news is, with the right kind of training programs, we can regain what we’ve lost and maybe get people to higher levels,” said study author Fredric Wolinsky, a professor of public health at the University of Iowa.
“It seems some remodeling of the brain is taking place, but we need to figure out exactly which parts of the brain are undergoing functional improvements,” added Wolinsky, who has no financial stake in the video game used in the research.
The study is published May 1 in the journal PLoS ONE.
Wolinsky along with his team split participants into four groups, further separating them into sets of those 50 to 64 and the ones over 65. One group was presented with computerized crossword puzzles and also the three other groups repeatedly used the street Tour game.
The video game centres on quickly identifying a form of vehicle and matching its symbol with the correct road sign among a circular range of possibilities. The player must succeed three of all the four tries to advance to the next level, which speeds the process and adds much more distractions.
Participants who played the gaming scored significantly higher than those in the crossword puzzle group about tests involving executive function like concentration, agile shifting in one mental task to one more, and information processing swiftness. The mental improvement in the video game group ranged via 1. 5 to nearly seven years when compared with those doing crossword puzzles, the investigators found.
Wolinsky noted that numerous other brain-training games can be obtained commercially, though few have scientific evidence to back their cognitive improvement promises. Road Tour forces end users to widen their field of vision so that you can take in all the data required to succeed, he said.
“There’s been considerable assumption that the visual field of view, the amount of area we take in, declines with age,” he said. “For people to visualize the center and periphery requires them to shift their field of view to capture more information, and the training helps them be more successful at doing that. It’s a retrainable skill.”
An expert not involved with the new study called it “interesting and exciting.”
Dr. James Galvin, director of the Pearl Barlow Center for Memory Evaluation and Treatment at NYU Langone School of Medicine in New York City, said that the study indicates that doctors should look more carefully at such brain-training programs to determine how they can be used clinically.
“It’s really interesting to be able to demonstrate that these more challenging kinds of tasks . . . showed a significant benefit compared to crossword puzzles,” said Galvin, also a professor of neurology and psychiatry. “The nature of the brain is that even later in life, we can still remodel it. This suggests we have an opportunity to make a real impact on older adults in terms of their mental ability.”
Source: HealthDay News