Video games improve aging minds

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

video games and aging
First author of the study Joaquin Anguera helps participant Ann Linsley as she plays NeuroRacer.

Believe it or not, many studies have shown that playing video games is beneficial for your brain. Not only do they increase hand-eye coordination, some also enhance problem-solving and literary skills. Let’s be honest with ourselves, though, it’s not like game makers sit there and think, “You know what, I’m going to make this game as healthy for the brain as possible.” Ha, as if. Instead, their thoughts are more likely along the lines of, “I want as many explosions as possible!” Well, that may be true for most games, but not for the NeuroRacer, which was specifically designed to help older folks sharpen their minds!

You see, as we get older, our brains tend to deteriorate and have trouble with memory and attention. This game was designed specifically to enhance brain power in older people within those areas. It isn’t a boring old game either, like digital Sudoku (sorry, I never did like that puzzle). NeuroRacer involves zooming down a road as you drive into a horizon! Along the way, there are several sharp and unexpected turns, sloping hills that require top speeds to be conquered, and random signs that spring up and require players to tap buttons as quickly as possible to continue zipping down the street. That’s my kind of game! According to Adam Gazzaley, a brain scientist at the University of California, San Francisco and a researcher involved in the study: “The road is always turning and always moving up and down, so it’s always holding your attention, and while that occurs, these signs pop up.” Overall, the 60, 70, and 80-year-old senior citizens who played this game demonstrated a boost in brain power!

“After training, they improved their multitasking beyond the level of 20-year-olds,” says Gazzaley. “It really shows that this brain change – this brain activity change that occurs with training – is really related to this cognitive control ability that you can see translated into their behavior.” In other words, our brains don’t have to lose their attention span and ability to multitask. If we engage in activities that challenge and sharpen the mind, our brains can stay as fit as fiddles!  Once I turn 20 years old, I want to play this game so my mind will stay forever young.

Images and video courtesy of Susan Merrell and the University of California, San Francisco.