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Study: Well-targeted brain training videogame can lead to real-life benefits

Brain_Training_videogameA Mul­ti­task­ing Video Game Makes Old Brains Act Younger (The New York Times):

Brain sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered that swerv­ing around cars while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly pick­ing out road signs in a video game can improve the short-term mem­o­ry and long-term focus of old­er adults. Some peo­ple as old as 80, the researchers say, begin to show neu­ro­log­i­cal pat­terns of peo­ple in their 20s…

We know we can rewire the brain, but the chal­lenge is how to do it prop­er­ly,” she said. “We’re in the prim­i­tive age of brain train­ing.”

Study: Video game train­ing enhances cog­ni­tive con­trol in old­er adults (Nature; requires sub­scrip­tion)

  • Abstract: Cog­ni­tive con­trol is defined by a set of neur­al process­es that allow us to inter­act with our com­plex envi­ron­ment in a goal-direct­ed man­ner. Humans reg­u­lar­ly chal­lenge these con­trol process­es when attempt­ing to simul­ta­ne­ous­ly accom­plish mul­ti­ple goals (mul­ti­task­ing), gen­er­at­ing inter­fer­ence as the result of fun­da­men­tal infor­ma­tion pro­cess­ing lim­i­ta­tions. It is clear that mul­ti­task­ing behav­iour has become ubiq­ui­tous in today’s tech­no­log­i­cal­ly dense world, and sub­stan­tial evi­dence has accrued regard­ing mul­ti­task­ing dif­fi­cul­ties and cog­ni­tive con­trol deficits in our age­ing pop­u­la­tion. Here we show that mul­ti­task­ing per­for­mance, as assessed with a cus­tom-designed three-dimen­sion­al video game (Neu­ro­Rac­er), exhibits a lin­ear age-relat­ed decline from 20 to 79 years of age. By play­ing an adap­tive ver­sion of Neu­ro­Rac­er in mul­ti­task­ing train­ing mode, old­er adults (60 to 85 years old) reduced mul­ti­task­ing costs com­pared to both an active con­trol group and a no-con­tact con­trol group, attain­ing lev­els beyond those achieved by untrained 20-year-old par­tic­i­pants, with gains per­sist­ing for 6 months. Fur­ther­more, age-relat­ed deficits in neur­al sig­na­tures of cog­ni­tive con­trol, as mea­sured with elec­troen­cephalog­ra­phy, were reme­di­at­ed by mul­ti­task­ing train­ing (enhanced mid­line frontal theta pow­er and frontal–posterior theta coher­ence). Crit­i­cal­ly, this train­ing result­ed in per­for­mance ben­e­fits that extend­ed to untrained cog­ni­tive con­trol abil­i­ties (enhanced sus­tained atten­tion and work­ing mem­o­ry), with an increase in mid­line frontal theta pow­er pre­dict­ing the train­ing-induced boost in sus­tained atten­tion and preser­va­tion of mul­ti­task­ing improve­ment 6 months lat­er. These find­ings high­light the robust plas­tic­i­ty of the pre­frontal cog­ni­tive con­trol sys­tem in the age­ing brain, and pro­vide the first evi­dence, to our knowl­edge, of how a cus­tom-designed video game can be used to assess cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties across the lifes­pan, eval­u­ate under­ly­ing neur­al mech­a­nisms, and serve as a pow­er­ful tool for cog­ni­tive enhance­ment.

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