If, like me you get sick reading about how computer games make us ‘more violent’, then positive research completed by the University of Iowa will be a welcome change. They have proved that playing games will slow down the decline of cognitive skills as we get older.
As we get older there is no doubt that our cognitive skills deteriorate. Specifically the ‘executive function’ of our mind suffers, a key area for problem solving, perception, attention and memory. The research claims that when 50 year old (and greater) candidates played a specific video game it was possible to stop and even reverse the decline.
Professor Fredric Wolinsky had a grouping of 681 volunteers and he split them up into four groups. He made one group tackle computer oriented crossword puzzles, as a control setting, for 10 hours. The other groups played a video game called Road Tour. One group played it at home for 10 hours, group two played it for 14 hours in a lab, and the last for 10 hours in a lab.
This game shows the gamer a vehicle and then asks to pick it out from a rotating circular display of possibilities, with a variety of distractions. As they get better, the game advances with more challenging demands made.
The research details said “Briefly, the exercise revolves around identifying a type of vehicle (displayed fleetingly on a license plate) and then reidentifying the vehicle type and matching it with a road sign displayed from a circular array of possibilities, all but one of them false icons. 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, up to 47 in all.The goal, naturally, is to increase the user’s mental speed and agility at identifying the vehicle symbol and picking out the road sign from the constellation of distractors (which are rabbits, by the way).”
When the subjects were tested a year later, those who played it for 10 hours gained and retained an average of at least three years worth of cognitive improvement. The 14 hour group had a better gain of four years improvements. The maximum reported improvement was seven years.
Wolinsky said “We not only prevented the decline; we actually sped them up.” He added “As we get older, our visual field collapses on us. We get tunnel vision. It’s a normal functioning of aging. This helps to explain why most accidents happen at intersections because older folks are looking straight ahead and are less aware of peripherals.”
He added “It’s the ‘use it or lose it’ phenomenon— with a twist. Age-related cognitive decline is real, it’s happening, and it starts earlier and then continues steadily. Here, the exercise designed by neuroscientists delivered significant gains that generalized to daily life.”
Kitguru says: Fascinating – we wonder how a 14 hour daily gaming session of Grand Theft Auto 4 might have sharpened the older gamers.