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Elderly Video Gamers

January 26, 2009

Playing a strategic video game may help seniors keep their brains sharp.


Can video games slow time? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

As we get older, certain types of brain exercises may help stave off cognitive decline. Now, University of Illinois psychologists Arthur Kramer and Chandramallika Basak have found potential benefits to a strategic video game called Rise of Nations. Players juggle such challenges as building virtual cities, feeding their citizens, and commanding a military. Older adults who learned the game showed improvements in working memory, reasoning, and their ability to switch between multiple tasks. Basak says that more simple computerized exercises only make you better at doing the exercise itself.

CHANDRAMALLIKA BASAK (University of Illinois):
And so that’s why we looked at more integrative cognitive training, that would have not just one skill but multiple skills.

Still, it remains to be seen whether the game improves real-life skills, like driving or balancing a checkbook. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.