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Playing Video Games May Boost Older Brains
Date:12/11/2008

Study suggests video gaming could be part of mental exercise routine for older people

THURSDAY, Dec. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Older people who want to stay sharp should reconsider the notion that video games are only for lazy children and pick up a joystick themselves, a new study suggests.

While past studies have shown that playing video games has many positive benefits, ranging from improved problem-solving abilities in young people to improved operating skills in surgeons, the study in the December issue of Psychology and Aging went one step further. The research, which was not funded by the gaming industry, is the first to indicate that playing complex video games after receiving training may improve the cognitive functions that typically decline with age.

The researchers tested the cognitive abilities of 40 people in their 60s and 70s before and after playing the video game "Rise of Nations," which rewards the complex task of creating a society, including building cities, employing people and expanding territory.

Half of the group received training before playing the game while the other half served as a comparison group and received no training.

Testing showed that people in the trained group performed better not only on the game but also on tests of memory, reasoning and the ability to identify rotated objects compared to those who were not trained. The results may eventually help older people who are struggling with managing tasks they once found to be simple.

"Juggling multiple tasks such as cooking, answering the door, and talking on the phone might be simple for a young person, while an older person might feel overwhelmed and burn their food," said study author Chandramallika Basak, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois. "These are the kind of things that older people do in their everyday lives, so if you're not very good at juggling different tasks it does
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