Old and busted: Video games rot the minds of teenagers.
New hotness: Specially designed video games make elderly brains act young again. The New York Times reports on a new study set to be published in the journal Nature:
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.
Cognitive scientists say the findings, to be published Thursday in the scientific journal Nature, are a significant development in understanding how to strengthen older brains. That is because the improvements in brain performance did not come just within the game but were shown outside the game in other cognitive tasks.
Further supporting the findings, the researchers were able to measure and show changes in brain wave activity, suggesting that this research could help understand what neurological mechanisms should and could be tinkered with to improve memory and attention.
The research “shows you can take older people who aren’t functioning well and make them cognitively younger through this training,” said Earl K. Miller, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was not affiliated with the research. “It’s a very big deal.”
One caveat is that so far the findings only apply to games designed specifically to increase cognitive performance. Sadly, there's still no word yet on whether or not playing Skyrim makes you smarter.