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Video game sharpens up elderly brains

Adults over 60 who played for several hours a month beat untrained 20-year-olds in racing game

12:05pm, September 4, 2013
Magazine issue: Vol. 184, October 5, 2013
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Playing a car-racing video game boosted older adults’ brainpower, scientists report in the Sept. 5 Nature. The results suggest that brain training games might stave off mental decline that comes with age.

Cognitive neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley of the University of California, San Francisco and colleagues created a video game called NeuroRacer. Participants drove a car on a narrow, windy road and distracting signs popped up. Older people were worse at the game than younger people, the team found.

But after playing for 12 hours over a month, volunteers between ages 60 and 85 got so good at the game that they beat 20-year-olds playing it for the first time. And the benefits stayed for at least 6 months, even though the older volunteers had stopped playing NeuroRacer.

Other mental functions also improved: Lab tests revealed that participants’ working memory increased, as did attention.

The NeuroRacer video game challenges drivers to pilot a car on a windy road while looking out for signs. Playing the game boosted older adults’ memory and attention.
Credit: The Gazzaley Lab

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