Researchers from the University of Iowa report in PLOS ONE that a study of 681 healthy adults over the age of 50 who played a video game called “Road Tour” were better able to hold off declines in memory, planning and reasoning than a group who completed crossword puzzles. The video game players also scored higher on tests of concentration, processed new information more quickly, and were able to switch more competently between different tasks. The video game required players to identify a car image displayed quickly at the start of the game, to a similar image as well as a matching road sign from a series of changing options. With each new stage, players had less time to complete their matches – relying on processing skills and quick-thinking to finish the game.

Fredric Wolinsky, a professor at the University of Iowa College of Public Health said, “We know that we can stop this decline and actually restore cognitive processing speed to people. So, if we know that, shouldn’t we be helping people? It’s fairly easy, and older folks can go get the training game and play it,” he said.

Executive functions like attention, problem solving, memory, and perception skills begin to decline in middle age – and researchers hope that strategies like playing video games can help people avoid and maybe prevent some cognitive declines. “It’s the ‘use it or lose it’ phenomenon,” said Wolinsky……   5/3/13

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