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<< Back to Health & Wellness, January 2012

Brain Games

The debate over whether video games improve cognitive function or eat away at it like Pac-Man has been raging ever since Atari’s heyday. While no definite consensus has been reached, scientists at the University of California, San Francisco have determined that video games targeted for a particular population and for specific tasks can indeed give the aging brain a boost. The study, authored by Joaquin Anguera in neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley’s laboratory, found that when octogenarians played a driving video game the research team developed called NeuroRacer, engineered to test multi-tasking skills and memory, not only did the participants’ brains behave like those of 20-year-olds in the short term, but the effects lasted for six months—even without repeating the game. “This is empirical evidence that there are things we can do to keep brains young,” says Anguera. Gary Small, MD, PhD, a neuroscientist and psychiatrist at UCLA’s Longevity Center, explains, “We know that people who are bilingual have a lower risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Basically, any activity that is challenging could be good for your brain.” So whether that includes racing cars on a video screen or on a track, if it challenges your mind, it helps keep your brain young and healthy.

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Illustration by Brian Stauffer
Photo by Grant Cornett
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Copyright Sam Kaplan
Photo by Hiysayoshi Osaw; Copywright gettyimages.com
Copyright Sam Kaplan