3D video games may help ward off cognitive impairment in seniors

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Video games that use a 3D platform may help prevent mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease among older adults, according to research published Wednesday.

The new study from the Université de Montréal built off of previous research that showed younger adults had an increase in gray matter in their hippocampus after playing 3D logic and puzzle games.

The study was tried again using adults ages 55 to 75, who were assigned to play Super Mario 64 for a half hour each day, five days a week; take piano lessons for the same length of time; or not participate in any extra activities.

After six months researchers found only the video game group had gray matter increases in both their hippocampus and their cerebellum, which plays role in motor control and balance. Short-term memory also improved for those in the video game group.

Gray matter typically atrophies as people age, but games on a 3D platform may help slow that down, researchers said.

“The good news is that we can reverse those effects and increase volume by learning something new, and games like Super Mario 64, which activate the hippocampus, seem to hold some potential in that respect," explained lead researcher Gregory West, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology.

The researchers said their findings could be used to contribute to future Alzheimer's research. Results of the study were published in PLOS ONE.