This Video Game is Improving the Memory of Seniors

If only your Ms. Pac-Man arcade game could do this. NeuroRacer, a video game developed by the University of California, San Francisco is helping aging adults improve their cognitive abilities. So forget all of the bad press you’ve been hearing – video games are worthwhile to play on a regular basis after all!

NeuroRacer’s Main Purpose

Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, studied the effects of video games, specifically how they impact an adult’s brain as it ages. He helped develop a game that would require older adults to multitask, and that challenge became the catalyst for the stunning results of the study: the adults had an improved memory after playing the game on a regular basis.

What Happened?

Compared to 20-year-old adults, the older adults had a difficult time completing the multitasking challenges in NeuroRacer at first. However, once they played the game for a month straight, their abilities matched those of the 20-year-olds. They reverted and were able to reengage their brain in cognitive activity involving multitasking that had previously been struggling.

Upon further testing, it showed that the older adults had prefrontal cortex deficiencies before playing NeuroRacer, but afterwards testing revealed that brain function was restored, equaling that of a 20-year-old brain. It wasn’t just the skill of multitasking that was improved, but their memory and attention increased as well. 

Where Could This Lead?

NeuroRacer is specifically designed to condition the brain, with the challenges becoming harder the better the player is. While there is no way of knowing if gaming as a therapeutic treatment will someday prevent disease involving brain degeneration such as dementia, it’s clear that video games can play a role in keeping an individual’s cognitive function sharp.

As more games are developed and more levels are played, further testing can take place and conclusions will be drawn. In the meantime, Gazzaley doesn’t discount the value of playing any type of video game that is enjoyable and designed to provide a new experience to the player, as this can contribute to brain elasticity.

So don’t feel guilty about spending your weekend with your Ms. Pac-Man arcade game – maybe you’re helping keep your brain young and healthy!