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Video Gaming Just Might Fight Aging
Date:1/23/2010

airly substantial changes," said Art Kramer, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who participated in the study.

Researchers measured the cognitive abilities of the players, none of whom had played any video games for at least two years. They then had half the group play Rise of Nations for nearly 24 hours total over an eight-week period.

Follow-up tests found that the seniors who played the strategy video game improved their performance on tests of memory, reasoning and cognition. There were particular improvements, Kramer said, in what's called executive control processes -- abilities such as planning, scheduling, dealing with ambiguity and multi-tasking.

"As we get older, we show declines in many of those abilities," he said. "As a result of doing certain things, we end up doing them less often. The kinds of processes that were exercised in the video game were some of the processes that older adults show deficits on."

Allaire is part of a team that has been given a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to do further research on whether and how video games can boost memory and thinking skills in the elderly.

The researchers plan to have seniors play a Wii game called Boom Blox that involves using weapons such as slingshots and cannonballs to demolish on-screen targets. The research will also involve World of Warcraft, an online role-playing game, Allaire said.

The plan is to assess three aspects of video game-playing that are thought to drive cognitive improvements in older people, Allaire said. They are:

  • Attentional demand. "You have to pay attention to what's going on on the screen and react quickly," he said. "The more attention you expend on the video game, the better you get at focusing your attention."
  • Novelty. "There's a lot of research that, when we're put in novel situations or are le
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