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Gaming Boosts Brain of Seniors

By on September 4, 2013

Older adults who played a video racing game for several hours a month beat untrained 20-year-olds. Researchers say the findings reflect a brainpower boost.

Playing a car-racing video game boosted older adults’ brainpower, scientists report in the Sept. 5 Nature. The results suggest that brain training games might stave off mental decline that comes with age.

Cognitive neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley of the University of California, San Francisco and colleagues created a video game called NeuroRacer. Participants drove a car on a narrow, windy road and distracting signs popped up. Older people were worse at the game than younger people, the team found.

But after playing for 12 hours over a month, volunteers between ages 60 and 85 got so good at the game that they beat 20-year-olds playing it for the first time. And the benefits stayed for at least 6 months, even though the older volunteers had stopped playing NeuroRacer.

By playing an adaptive version of NeuroRacer in multitasking training mode, older adults (60 to 85 years old) reduced multitasking costs compared to both an active control group and a no-contact control group, attaining levels beyond those achieved by untrained 20-year-old participants, with gains persisting for 6 months. Furthermore, age-related deficits in neural signatures of cognitive control, as measured with electroencephalography, were remediated by multitasking training (enhanced midline frontal theta power and frontal–posterior theta coherence).

Critically, this training resulted in performance benefits that extended to untrained cognitive control abilities (enhanced sustained attention and working memory), with an increase in midline frontal theta power predicting the training-induced boost in sustained attention and preservation of multitasking improvement 6 months later.

<iframe src=”//player.vimeo.com/video/73787256″ width=”500″ height=”375″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/73787256″>Brain Racer</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/sciencenews”>Science News</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

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