Video games can help improve seniors’ cognitive function, Canadian study finds

Seniors playing Wii

Seniors who regularly play video games can benefit from an increase in cognitive function, according to a recent Canadian study.

Over the course of several months, researchers at Memorial University and Université de Montréal observed groups of people aged 60 and above as they played 1996 platformer Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes a day, five times a week.

After six months of study, the researchers found that the seniors demonstrated increased grey matter in their brains and improved short-term memories.

The study was originally intended to see if seniors would benefit from musical training but later expanded to include video games as well. Altogether, three groups were studied — seniors learning to play video games, seniors learning to play music and seniors who did no activity.

Of the three groups, the video game players exhibited the strongest improvements. The researchers told CBC News that the success comes from the fact that most senior citizens are completely unfamiliar with video games. While many of the senior participants had at some point in their lives taken musical lessons, few (if any) of them had ever played a video game before.

As a result, this challenged their brains to learn a completely new type of activity, which, in turn, stimulated their cognitive functions. The increased mental acuity didn’t just factor into playing games, either.

“They seemed to get better at these lower-level cognitive tasks that might transfer to real-world situations, like remembering phone numbers, or driving and ignoring certain things, or paying attention to certain things, while you’re driving a car,” Dr. Benjamin Zendel, Canada Research Chair in Aging and Auditory Neuroscience, told CBC News.

Image credit: Flickr — Christopher Holden

Via: CBC News