Strategic video game boosts brain power among older adults

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Most parents fear that video games will harm their children's brains, but for the older crowd, some games might just have the opposite effect, recent research suggests.

"Rise of Nations" is a strategic video game in which players build cities and armies, oversee both militaries and civilians, expand their territories and conquer all who stand in their way. Researchers atthe University of Illinois tested the game on people in their 60s and 70s. One group of 20 seniors played the game for 23.5 hours, while another group of 20 did not. Researchers found that those who played the game improved cognitively over the non-players in a number of measurable ways: they were better andfaster when it came to switching between tasks, they demonstrated enhanced reasoning ability, and visual acuity, and working memory and short-term memory all improved. 

This type of game works at improving mental function inthe elderly because it revolves around so-called "executive function" tasks, such as scheduling, planning, working memory and multi-tasking, which older people tend to fare less well on, according to study author Arthur Kramer. The full study appears in the December issue of the journal Psychology and Aging.