Video games reverse 'mental decay'
Playing videogames can prevent and even
reverse deteriorating brain functions such as memory, reasoning and
visual processing, according to a study.
The University of Iowa study of hundreds of people age 50 and
older found that those who played a video game were able to improve
a range of cognitive skills, and reverse up to seven years of
"We know that we can stop this decline and actually restore
cognitive processing speed to people," said Fredric Wolinsky, a
University of Iowa professor of public health and lead author of
the paper published in the journal PLOS One.
"So, if we know that, shouldn't we be helping people? It's fairly
easy, and older folks can go get the training game and play
The study is the latest in a series of research projects examining
why people, as they age, lose "executive function" of the brain,
which is needed for memory, attention, perception and problem
Wolinsky and colleagues separated 681 generally healthy patients
in Iowa into four groups. Each of those was split into segments
with people 50 to 64 years of age and those over age 65.
One group was given computerised crossword puzzles, while three
other groups were asked to play a videogame called "Road Tour,"
which revolves around identifying a type of vehicle displayed
fleetingly on a license plate.
Participants were asked to re-identify the vehicle type and match
it with a road sign displayed from a circular array of
The player must succeed at least three out of every four tries to
advance to the next level, which speeds up the vehicle
identification and adds more distractions.
"The game starts off with an assessment to determine your current
speed of processing. Whatever it is, the training can help you get
about 70 percent faster," Wolinsky said.
The groups that played the game at least 10 hours, either at home
or in a lab at the university, gained at least three years of
cognitive improvement when tested after one year.
A group that got four additional hours of training with the game
did even better, improving their cognitive abilities by four years,
according to the study.
"We not only prevented the decline (in cognitive abilities), we
actually sped them up," Wolinsky said.
References and further information