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Challenging Videogame Improves Attention and Memory in Seniors

(p. R1) Neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley and his colleagues at the University of California in San Francisco have found that playing a challenging videogame upgrades our ability to pay attention.

As reported in the journal Nature in 2013, the Gazzaley lab trained 60- to 85-year-old subjects on a game called NeuroRacer. The multitask version involves simulated driving along a winding road while quickly pressing keys or a game controller to respond to a green sign when it appears on the roadside. As a control, some subjects played a single-task version of the game that omits the winding road and involves only noticing and responding to the green sign. To ensure that subjects were genuinely challenged but not discouraged, the level of game difficulty was individualized.

After 12 hours of training spread evenly over a month, multitasking subjects were about twice as efficient at shifting attention as when they started, a huge improvement by any standard. Remarkably, their new scores were comparable to those of 20-year-olds not trained on NeuroRacer. The subjects still tested positive six months later.

The multitaskers also got an unexpected brain bonus. Their sustained concentration and working memory (briefly holding information such as a phone number) improved as well. The training had targeted neither of these functions, but the general benefits emerged nonetheless.

For the full commentary, see:

PATRICIA CHURCHLAND. "MIND AND MATTER; A Senior Moment for Videogames as Brain-Boosters." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Oct. 3, 2015): C2.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 30, 2015, and the title "MIND AND MATTER: Videogames for Seniors Boost Brainpower.")

The Gazzaley article mentioned above, is:

Anguera, J. A., J. Boccanfuso, J. L. Rintoul, O. Al-Hashimi, F. Faraji, J. Janowich, E. Kong, Y. Larraburo, C. Rolle, E. Johnston, and Adam Gazzaley. "Video Game Training Enhances Cognitive Control in Older Adults." Nature 501, no. 7465 (Sept. 5, 2013): 97-101.

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