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Study: Physically-active video games (‘exergames’) boost cognition more than physical activity alone

Active gam­ing is good for brain health and mem­o­ry, finds study (Uni­ver­si­ty of Man­ches­ter release):

Video games which involve phys­i­cal activ­i­ty sig­nif­i­cant­ly boost our brain health as we get old­er, accord­ing to new research led by Uni­ver­si­ty of Man­ches­ter experts.

Study authors Dr Emma Stan­more and Joseph Firth say sys­tems that use phys­i­cal activ­i­ty for gam­ing such as Wii, and Xbox Kinect can boost brain func­tion­ing in peo­ple with neu­ro­log­i­cal impair­ment, as well as keep­ing our minds healthy and active as we age.

In the first ever analy­sis of all pub­lished evi­dence, the researchers aggre­gat­ed data from 17 clin­i­cal tri­als exam­in­ing the effects of active gam­ing on cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing across 926 peo­ple…

Phys­i­cal­ly-active video games have, accord­ing to our research, greater impact on brain func­tion­ing than reg­u­lar phys­i­cal activ­i­ty alone – sug­gest­ing that their ben­e­fits are more than just mov­ing around…The brain ben­e­fits may be because these activ­i­ties are phys­i­cal­ly demand­ing, while also requir­ing con­cen­tra­tion and cog­ni­tive effort, result­ing in pos­i­tive effects for body and brain.”

The Study

The effect of active video games on cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing in clin­i­cal and non-clin­i­cal pop­u­la­tions: A meta-analy­sis of ran­dom­ized con­trolled tri­als (Neu­ro­science and Biobe­hav­ioral Reviews)

  • Abstract: Phys­i­cal­ly-active video games (‘exergames’) have recent­ly gained pop­u­lar­i­ty for leisure and enter­tain­ment pur­pos­es. Using exergames to com­bine phys­i­cal activ­i­ty and cog­ni­tive­ly-demand­ing tasks may offer a nov­el strat­e­gy to improve cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing. There­fore, this sys­tem­at­ic review and meta-analy­sis was per­formed to estab­lish effects of exergames on over­all cog­ni­tion and spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive domains in clin­i­cal and non-clin­i­cal pop­u­la­tions. We iden­ti­fied 17 eli­gi­ble RCTs with cog­ni­tive out­come data for 926 par­tic­i­pants. Ran­dom-effects meta-analy­ses found exergames sig­nif­i­cant­ly improved glob­al cog­ni­tion (g = 0.436, 95% CI = 0.18–0.69, p = 0.001). Sig­nif­i­cant effects still exist­ed when exclud­ing wait­list-only con­trolled stud­ies, and when com­par­ing to phys­i­cal activ­i­ty inter­ven­tions. Fur­ther­more, ben­e­fits of exergames where observed for both healthy old­er adults and clin­i­cal pop­u­la­tions with con­di­tions asso­ci­at­ed with neu­rocog­ni­tive impair­ments (all p < 0.05). Domain-spe­cif­ic analy­ses found exergames improved exec­u­tive func­tions, atten­tion­al pro­cess­ing and visu­ospa­tial skills. The find­ings present the first meta-ana­lyt­ic evi­dence for effects of exergames on cog­ni­tion. Future research must estab­lish which patient/treatment fac­tors influ­ence effi­ca­cy of exergames, and explore neu­ro­bi­o­log­i­cal mech­a­nisms of action.

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