NOV 04, 2015 4:38 AM PST

Brain Games

Video games, online role-playing games and even just some of the board game apps on a smartphone are played by millions of people. They can be fun, they can be addictive but a recent study shows that they could also be beneficial to older adults  in terms of memory skills and even carrying out their daily chores and errands.
 
Online games helped older adults with memory and problem solving

A study published this week in JAMDA The Journal of Post-Acute and Long Term Care Medicine details the results of what Scientists at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London uncovered when they asked older adults to play an online brain training game.
 
Earlier studies that investigated brain training exercises and memory skills were mostly smaller studies that did not include the elderly and that did not result in any conclusive proof about how helpful these games could be. This most recent study, which was partially funded by the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK is the largest study of it’s kind to evaluate the effect of online brain training tools. Over 7,000 adults, all over the age of 50 took part in the study. 
 
How did the study work? One group was told to play online games from a  brain training package that included puzzles that required reasoning like figuring out how to balance different sized weights on a teeter totter and puzzles that required problem solving tasks like arranging objects in numerical order.  The participants in the study were recruited from the general public by the Alzheimer’s Society in partnership with the British Medical Research Council and a public campaign by the BBC. They were asked to play the games for at least 10 minutes a day, but could play longer if they chose. Another group was just asked to do simple Internet searches on a daily basis. Both groups had cognitive function tests done at the beginning of the study for a reference point and then at six weeks, three months and six months after beginning the study. Participants who were older than 60 were also tested on how well they managed their daily affairs like shopping, household chores and money management.
 
After the results were tallied the group that had played the games had significant improovment in their cognitive function. Those between the ages of 50 and 60 had test scores for verbal learning and reasoning that were higher than when they started the study. The participants over 60 who had also been evaluated for daily living skills showed improvement in those areas as well. The researchers found that five times per week was the magic number for the most improvement potention. This new study could have important implications for preserving cognitive function in older adults and might offer an effective, easily accessible intervention to help people reduce their risk of cognitive decline later in life.
 
Dr Anne Corbett one of the lead authors of the study said in a press release from King’s College, 'The impact of a brain training package such as this one could be extremely significant for older adults who are looking for a way to proactively maintain their cognitive health as they age. The online package could be accessible to large numbers of people, which could also have considerable benefits for public health across the UK. Our research adds to growing evidence that lifestyle interventions may provide a more realistic opportunity to maintain cognitive function, and potentially reduce the risk of cognitive decline later in life, particularly in the absence of any drug treatments to prevent dementia.” 

Want to see for yourself?

The game can be found in a demo version at www.alzheimers.org.uk/braintraining 

In addition, check out the video below to learn more about brain training games for older adults.
 
 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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