60-Second Science

Video Game Play Sharpens Elderly Minds

Elderly people who played a video game that challenged their brain processing speed showed improvements in executive function compared with those who did crossword puzzles. Amy Kraft reports

Wanna help grandma keep her mind sharp? Consider throwing out her crossword puzzles and giving her a joystick. Because a study finds that elderly people who played a video game for at least 10 hours gained three years of protection from cognitive decline. Gamers also became quicker at processing information. The research is in the journal PLoS ONE. [Fredric D. Wolinsky et al., A Randomized Controlled Trial of Cognitive Training Using a Visual Speed of Processing Intervention in Middle Aged and Older Adults]

Almost 700 subjects were divided into two groups: those between the ages of fifty and sixty-four and people aged sixty-five and older. Members from each age group were asked to either work on a crossword puzzle or play a video game called Road Tour, which involves matching fleeting images of car types and road signs.

In both age groups, those who played the video game showed improvements on executive function—which includes memory, attention, problem solving skills and perception—when tested a year later.

Some of the gamers were given four additional hours of training with the game. And their cognitive improvement lasted an additional year. So video games might help ward off cognitive decline. Just don’t play Road Tour while actually driving.

—Amy Kraft

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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