Study Shows Video Games Could Cut Dementia Risk In Seniors
A new study suggests older adults who practice specific computer training exercises that test how fast they respond to visual stimuli could face a 29 percent lower chance of developing dementia, results deemed encouraging by experts even as more work is needed to confirm the link.
The randomized clinical trial involving more than 2,800 people study was funded by the US National Institutes of Health, and used a specific brain-training exercise called “Double Decision,” a patented program by Posit Science that is available on BrainHQ.com.
The exercises tested a person’s ability to look at an object in the center of the screen, like a truck, and click on an object that popped up in the periphery, like a car.
As the user improves, the exercises move faster and become more difficult.
The idea is to exercise the brain’s ability to changeknown as plasticityand to test skills of perception, decision-making, thinking and remembering.
Study authors say the process is like learning to ride a bike, a skill that doesn’t take long to learn but which drives a long-lasting brain change.
Participants were an average age of 74 when they enrolled in the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly study.
Dozens of peer-reviewed scientific studies have been published using ACTIVE data, which has now completed 10 years of follow up.
Those enrolled in the computer-game part of the study did at least 10 hours of training in the first five weeks of the program.
Play Games Prevent Dementia
Playing games is considered an excellent activity for improving cognitive skills. There is no proof that games prevent dementia. But the evidence so far shows that brain games help you reinforce skills that usually weaken as you age. These skills include planning, decision making, reacting faster, processing even faster, and better short-term memory. Games are believed to help maintain the overall mental health of seniors.
For seniors, there are mainly two kinds of games. First, games that help seniors entertain themselves and games help them keep their minds sharp and their brains active.
People over 50 found playing brain-training games on the internet to be beneficial. Researchers found that those who played the games five or more times a week showed a marked improvement in their reasoning and problem-solving skills. Another thing that studies in this field showed was that seniors over 60 years old who regularly play games and use brain training apps have a better performance in everyday life.
Improves Vision And Perception
The brain has this automatic ability to determine things or situations that are more important than the other things or situations at the same time. This is of good help in complex environments.
This is called the brains perceptual template, which is of good help in determining, assessing, and responding to different situations. Studies show that playing action-packed video games is of good help in improving an individuals ability to create perceptual templates.
Such perceptual improvements, though not task-specific, can be of huge benefit when applied to varied situations. High-action games are good at improving an individuals ability to distinguish different shades and patterns.
Experiments conducted on the brains of gamers show that they can process visual stimuli in a more efficient way than non-gamers. Such improved perceptions can have real-life advantages like keeping track of friends in a crowd or getting hold of something lost on the grass.
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Some Video Games Are Good For Older Adults’ Brains
- Université de Montréal
- Playing 3D-platform video games on a regular basis may improve cognitive functions in seniors and increase grey matter in a brain structure called the hippocampus, a new study suggests.
If you’re between 55 and 75 years old, you may want to try playing 3D platform games like Super Mario 64 to stave off mild cognitive impairment and perhaps even prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
That’s the finding of a new Canadian study by Université de Montréal psychology professors Gregory West, Sylvie Belleville and Isabelle Peretz. Published in PLOS ONE, it was done in cooperation with the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal , Benjamin Rich Zendel of Memorial University in Newfoundland, and Véronique Bohbot of Montreal’s Douglas Hospital Research Centre.
In two separate studies, in 2014 and 2017, young adults in their twenties were asked to play 3D video games of logic and puzzles on platforms like Super Mario 64. Findings showed that the gray matter in their hippocampus increased after training.
The hippocampus is the region of the brain primarily associated with spatial and episodic memory, a key factor in long-term cognitive health. The gray matter it contains acts as a marker for neurological disorders that can occur over time, including mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s.
West and his colleagues wanted to see if the results could be replicated among healthy seniors.
Other Studies Have Found Brain
Other recent studies have also found a connection between reduced risk of dementia and video games. In research from the UniversitÃ© de MontrÃ©al published in the journal PLOS ONE in 2017, two separate studies from 2014 and 2017 tasked young adults in their twenties with plating 3D logic and puzzle video games such as Super Mario 64. Both studies found that gray matter in the hippocampus areas of participants’ brains increased after training.
Researchers then set out to see if they could replicate the results with healthy seniors. To do this, they recruited 33 people between the ages of 55 and 75 and randomly assigned them to one of three random groups. Each was then given a specific task, including learning to play piano for the first time, playing Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes each day five times a week, and a control group not asked to do anything in particular.
After six months, brain imaging found that only participants in the video game group saw increases in gray matter volume in the hippocampus and cerebellum. Results also saw improvements in participants’ short-term memory in those participants alone.
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Playing Certain Video Games For 30 Minutes A Day Can Reduce The Risk Of Dementia
A study published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research in May 2020 gathered participants between the ages of 60 and 80 to test how video games that use a 3D environment might affect memory and cognitive health. The researchers hypothesized that games such as Super Mario World might have more benefits than two-dimensional games such as solitaire while also including dynamic flat-play games such as Angry Birds in testing. Participants were then asked to play 30 to 45 minutes of a specific game each day for four weeks, with researchers conducting memory tests throughout the experiment and for four weeks after gameplay had stopped.ae0fcc31ae342fd3a1346ebb1f342fcb
Results found that while memory was consistent across participants at the beginning of the experiment, two weeks of playing Super Mario or Angry Birds resulted in improved cognition in participants assigned to those games. Furthermore, those assigned to play Super Mario saw additional improvements in cognition and memory function through the following two weeks compared to those assigned to play solitaire, while those assigned to play Angry Birds saw no further progress.
The Authors Concluded That Video Games Could Be An Easy Way To Help Treat Memory Decline
The study’s authors wrote that their findings suggest immersive 3D environments could help improve cognition in older adults at risk of developing dementia or showing the onset of the disease. They argued that the experience could be beneficial at any age, especially helping to act as a substitute for the stimulation of a new environment in those who were homebound or physically unable to venture out.
“Here, we replicated our previous video game study in healthy older adults, showing that playing video games for four weeks can improve hippocampal-based memory in a population that is already experiencing age-related decline in memory,” the authors wrote. “Furthermore, we showed that the improvements last for up to four weeks past the intervention, highlighting the potential of video games as an intervention for age-related cognitive decline.”
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Can Brain Training Reduce Your Risk Of Dementia
While it seems to make sense that keeping and active mind should help prevent a condition characterised by memory loss and cognitive decline, no studies have yet proved this to be true. Most of these studies have struggled to differentiate whether any reduced risk of dementia was due to brain training or something else in a participants life such as having a higher form of education, working in a more mentally stimulating job, or just a higher socioeconomic status. So giving your brain a workout might not be proven to reduce your risk of dementia, but it can be a fun social activity for older people. Read more on our 10 Best Entertainment Apps for Older People or try one of the following?
- Challenge yourself with puzzles, crosswords, sodukus or quizzes
- Play card or board games every day
- Read books
My husband and I have been playing Backgammon every morning over breakfast for the past 25 years. It really helps to engage our minds as we get older and it’s fun to keep track of who’s winning .
Kay, 84 from somerset
They Help You Stay Active
One area of your lifestyle that might have an effect on whether or not you develop dementia is your exercise routine or how often you get your body moving. If you are against the idea of traditional exercise, there are video games designed to get you up and to move.
For example, if you have a virtual reality headset that you play games with, there may be titles that you can purchase which will facilitate moving your body and sweating. You can play these games daily or every other day, and you might be able to see health benefits from them.
To learn more about dementia, you may want to read BetterHelp. There are articles related to this condition, as well as its treatment options.
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Video Games For Dementia Detection
- New research suggests that playing popular video games may help diagnose dementia at an early stage
- Early diagnosis of dementia is important because it may be possible to slow or stop its progression with treatment
- Currently, there is no single test that accurately diagnoses dementia in an early stage, so this would be a tremendous breakthrough
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A 2020 article published in Journal of Medical Internal Research analyzed a number of different games, including Minecraft, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Mario Kart, Candy Crush, Angry Birds, a number of Nintendo Wii exergames and others, all of which demonstrated potential mitigating effects on mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
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Video Games Can Do More Than Reduce Alzheimers Symptoms They May Be Able To Help Diagnose Or Prevent Early Alzheimers
In April 2019, researchers at The French National Center for Scientific Research , in conjunction with teams at University College London and the University of East Anglia, published a study related to a game developed specifically for Alzheimers research.
CNRS researcher Antoine Coutrot developed the game Sea Hero Quest as a way to test players for the earliest indications of Alzheimers disease. Based on research data from more than four million players, Coutrot drew parallels between spatial awareness in the game and in the real world .
Similar studies have shown a link between video games and increasing cognitive ability in older adults. A study from the University of Montreal tested the impact of video games on grey matter in the hippocampusthe part of the brain that promotes memory building.
In the study, adults aged 55-75 spent six months playing the video game Super Mario 64. Compared to adults in control groupsone taking computerized piano lessons and another taking no specific intervention actionsthe Super Mario group experienced a collective increase in grey matter.
As a result of the study, researchers concluded that 3D video games can increase grey matter in the brain, improving memory and cognition, and potentially reducing the risk of diseases like Alzheimers.
What Is This Study About
This study, called LABYR , will test if new, experiential challenges delivered in a virtual reality video game can improve long-term memory capabilities in older adults and people with mild cognitive impairment. Each person will wear a head-mounted display to play a game running virtual errands while navigating through an unfamiliar, visually complex neighborhood. Participants will be randomly assigned to an intervention or a control, with memory tests conducted before and after the training period. Results will be measured by task and recall testing, functional MRI brain scans, and blood samples.
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Why Diagnosing Dementia Early Is Essential
Loss of memory may be a hallmark of dementia, but it is actually one of the later symptoms of the condition. In fact, poor spatial orientation is a sign of dementia that tends to develop much sooner but is often ignored. It is important to be able to detect early symptoms of dementia for several reasons. First, if cognitive decline is caused by a pharmaceutical medication, which is estimated to be a factor in a whopping 15 to 30 percent of cases, it may be reversible in the early stages if identified and corrected. And even if dementia is not reversible, there may be effective treatments that can slow or even stop the progression of the disease.
Early diagnosis is also valuable so that the person facing dementia, as well as any potential caregivers, can seek out support, as this typically becomes a very difficult disease for all involved. Additionally, it allows for the patient to get their affairs in order and make their requests known for everything from future care to end-of-life wishes while their faculties are still fully intact.
How Video Games Stave Off Dementia
Playing a difficult game for the first time can feel like stretching your brain, similar to exercising a muscle
Travellers stuck in traffic jams this bank holiday weekend, especially with children in tow, may resort to handheld video games when every I Spy answer has been guessed.
Luckily, playing video games may actually be very good for the brain – and may even stave off dementia symptoms in later life. This is because if you continue learning to do new things, whether studying a new language, completing sudoku puzzles or working out how to beat a cartoon monster, your brain seems to become better at switching to new ways of doing things and this may slightly delay the onset of some of the more distressing symptoms.
It wont stop the organic progression of the disease, which studies found to be the same in groups who played electronic puzzle games and those who didnt, but the players were able to find new neural pathways around the damaged areas of the brain.
Similarly to exercising a muscle, playing a difficult game for the first time can feel like stretching your brain, especially if you have no idea what to do at first. Time to turn your engine off and nick the kids consoles.
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They Help You Continue To Learn
Another way video games might be able to prevent dementia is that they can help you continue to learn. You can opt to play games that are designed to teach you a skill or those that require a great amount of concentration and time management. Perhaps you enjoy playing a game that teaches you how to play the guitar or simulates the running of a business. These can help you learn new things and how to manage many things happening at once. When you are able to continue to learn, this could help your brain stay healthy.
New Brain Health Game Takes A Different Approach
Neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley, who in fact signed the same letter as Engle, believes that he may have invented a game that addresses both the business and science aspects of brain fitness games.
His game is in the process of getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which will take several years and even more money. However, if approved, the game could be used to help people suffering from Alzheimers disease, PTSD, traumatic brain injury and ADHD.
The game is fully immersive and focuses on multitasking. For example, the player would need to guide a horse through the desert while tapping only green carrots flashing at the top of the screen, but not the radishes or carrots of another color. Gazelle says that if we created this, what we call a high-interference environment, with multitasking going on and lots of distraction if we put pressure in that environment, we would see benefits in other aspects of cognitive control.
He believes that by improving one area of cognition, all areas of cognition may be improved. He also hopes that one day the game can be analyzed by doctors to tailor the treatment of the player after seeing how the player responds to the game in varied environments.
Admitting that his game and his theory needs to undergo extensive testing, Gazzaley is cautiously optimistic saying:
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Can Brain Games And Training Apps Reverse Dementia
No, brain games and training apps havent been shown to reverse dementia. At this time, theres an ongoing debate on whether brain training games can help prevent dementia. But no evidence exists that these games can reverse dementia once you have it. However, there may still be benefits, such as helping to improve your overall thinking and mood.
What Does Science Say About Video Gaming And Brain Health
In 2015, a joint study of the Macquarie University in Sydney and the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China revealed structural and functional reinforcements in the gamers brain using functional MRI. The researchers found that playing action video games is associated with increased volume of gray matter in the brain and strengthened networking within the brain, which is linked with hand-eye motor coordination, multisensory temporal processing abilities, memory encoding and retrieval, and other higher-order functions such as problem-solving and decision making.
Structural enhancement aside, playing video games can be related to ones mental state, as shown by another study conducted at Oxford University. Our findings show video games arent necessarily bad for your health there are other psychological factors which have a significant effect on a persons well-being, lead author Andrew Przybylski, director of research at Oxford Internet Institute of University of Oxford, said in a news release. In fact, play can be an activity that relates positively to peoples mental health and regulating video games could withhold those benefits from players.
According to the study, players who genuinely enjoyed and satisfied the gameplay revealed a greater mental well-being, whereas the extrinsic motivations, such as feeling pressured to play, did the opposite.
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