Training the older brain in 3-D: Video game enhances cognitive control
2013-09-04 0:00

Red Ice Creations

It’s long been thought that challenging the brain in later years could keep it healthy and well functioning. New findings from a study published in Nature seem to support this theory through the medium of video games.

We’ll be generous and assume that this is why 77 year old Senator John McCain was caught this week playing poker games on his iPhone during an important U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing covering testimony on whether to attack Syria and risk escalation to a World War...

His resulting ’cognitive control’ is apparently in overdrive based on his stance of regime change in Syria. Rather than poker, he really should have been playing Bomberman.

More on the training involved in improving the performance (memory and attention) of older brains with video games by

Training the older brain in 3-D: Video game enhances cognitive control
From: MedicalXPress

Scientists at UC San Francisco are reporting that they have found a way to reverse some of the negative effects of aging on the brain, using a video game designed to improve cognitive control.

The findings, published this week in Nature, show how a specially designed 3-D video game can improve cognitive performance in healthy older adults. The researchers said it provides a measure of scientific support to the burgeoning field of brain fitness, which has been criticized for lacking evidence that such training can induce lasting and meaningful changes.

In the game, which was developed by the UCSF researchers, participants race a car around a winding track while a variety of road signs pop up. Drivers are instructed to keep an eye out for a specific type of sign, while ignoring all the rest, and to press a button whenever that particular sign appears. The need to switch rapidly from driving to responding to the signs – i.e. multitasking – generates interference in the brain that undermines performance. The researchers found that this interference increases dramatically across the adult lifespan.

But after receiving just 12 hours of training on the game, spread over a month, the 60- to 85-year-old study participants improved their performance until it surpassed that of 20-somethings who played the game for the first time.

The training also improved the participants’ performance in two other important cognitive areas: working memory and sustained attention. And participants maintained their skills at the video games six months after the training had ended.

"The finding is a powerful example of how plastic the older brain is," said Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD, UCSF associate professor of neurology, physiology and psychiatry and director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center. Gazzaley co-founded the company, Akili Interactive Labs, which is developing the next generation of the video game.

Gazzaley, who has made a career out of studying how distraction affects cognitive performance, said his game, NeuroRacer, does more than any ordinary game – be it bridge, a crossword puzzle, or an off-the-shelf video game – to condition the brain. Like a good teacher, he said, NeuroRacer undermines people’s natural tendency to go on automatic pilot once they’ve mastered a skill, and pushes them further than they think they can go.


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