"You need merchants. You need an army to protect yourself and you have to make sure you're spending some of your resources on education and food," said postdoctoral researcher Chandramallika Basak, lead author on the study. "This game stresses resource management and planning, which I think for older adults is important because many of them independently plan and manage their resources."
The study included 40 older adults, half of whom received 23.5 hours of training in Rise of Nations. The others, a comparison group, received no training in the game.
Both groups were assessed before, during and after the video game training on a variety of tests designed to measure executive control functions. The tests included measures of their ability to switch between tasks, their short-term visual memory, their reasoning skills and their working memory, which is the ability to hold two or more pieces of information in memory and use the information as needed.
There were also tests of the subjects' verbal recall, their ability to inhibit certain responses and their ability to identify an object that had been rotated to a greater or lesser degree from its original position.
The researchers found that training on the video game did improve the participants' performance on a number of these tests. As a group, the gamers became significantly better and faster at switching between tasks as compared to the comparison group. Their working memory, as reflected in the tests, was also significantly improved. Their reasoning ability was enhanced. To a lesser extent, their short-term memory of visual cues was better than that of their peers, as was their ability to identify rotated objects.
The video game training had no effect on their ability to recall a list of words in order, their enumeration ability or their ability to inhibit certain respons
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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign