Brain Age Games
Brain Age Games?
Just came across some interesting research from Arthur Kramer at the University of Illinois, which buttresses the already steady stream of information about how brain fitness can be improved.
This study indicates that 60 and 70 year old folks can improve some brain or cognitive skills by playing a strategic video game.
From the Science Digest article about the study,
"A desire to rule the world may be a good thing if you're over 60 and worried about losing your mental faculties. A new study found that adults in their 60s and 70s can improve a number of cognitive functions by playing a strategic video game that rewards nation-building and territorial expansion."
According to the article, "this is the first such study of older adults, and it is the first to find such pronounced effects on cognitive skills not directly related to the skills learned in the video game, said University of Illinois psychology professor Arthur Kramer, an author on the study."
"Decades of laboratory studies designed to improve specific cognitive skills, such as short-term memory, have found again and again that trainees improve almost exclusively on the tasks they perform in the lab – and only under laboratory conditions, Kramer said."
[Side bar-This is important for those of us with 60 year old brains who are interested is sustaining our viability, especially if you are a parent, like me, of a 10 and 4 year old brain. I want my training to generalize to the rest of my life. For example, weight lifting and exercising translate into my being capable of climbing a ladder easily and getting the Christmas decorations on the house. I can feel the strength when I am tasked with that chore, which overwhelms my younger wife. I want my brain fitness to translate to my counseling practice in the same way. I also what Dr. Kramer' read of the dual nback research would be, as it seems to indicate a significant impact on fluid intellience].
"When you train somebody on a task they tend to improve in that task, whatever it is, but it usually doesn't transfer much beyond that skill or beyond the particular situation in which they learned it," he said. "And there are virtually no studies that examine whether there's any transfer outside the lab to things people care about."
[Side bar-This has been a concern for me with some of the commercial programs available to consumers. While there is some evidence of their transfer to other function, I have not seen anything as specific as what Mr. Kramer is saying. I would love to know what other games they tried and ruled out, or if they thought of researching the Posit Science or Mind Sparke, which trains brains using the dual nback task or Brain Builder program].
"Kramer and his colleagues wanted to know whether a more integrated training approach could go beyond the training environment to enhance the cognitive skills used in every day life. Specifically, the researchers wondered whether interactive video games might benefit those cognitive functions that decline most with age."
"Older people tend to fare less well on things that are called executive control processes," Kramer said. "These include things like scheduling, planning, working memory, multitasking and dealing with ambiguity."
[Side bar-So it is old age and not ADD? Will my wife believe that? She is already sceptical].
After testing several video games, the researchers selected "Rise of Nations," which gives gamers points for building cities and "wonders," feeding and employing their people, maintaining an adequate military and expanding their territory.
[Side bar-Wonder if the social aspect was a criterion in game choice, that their had to be some caring about or worry for how others were doing?]
"You need merchants. You need an army to protect yourself and you have to make sure you're spending some of your resources on education and food," said postdoctoral researcher Chandramallika Basak, lead author on the study. "This game stresses resource management and planning, which I think for older adults is important because many of them independently plan and manage their resources."
"The study included 40 older adults, half of whom received 23.5 hours of training in Rise of Nations. The others, a comparison group, received no training in the game."
"Both groups were assessed before, during and after the video game training on a variety of tests designed to measure executive control functions. The tests included measures of their ability to switch between tasks, their short-term visual memory, their reasoning skills and their working memory, which is the ability to hold two or more pieces of information in memory and use the information as needed."
"There were also tests of the subjects' verbal recall, their ability to inhibit certain responses and their ability to identify an object that had been rotated to a greater or lesser degree from its original position." "Those who did well in the game also improved the most on switching between tasks. They also tended to do better on tests of working memory."
"In medical terminology, these would be dose-response effects," Kramer said. "The more drug – or in this case the more training on the video game – the more benefit."
The findings are meaningful, Basak said, because they show that multi-dimensional training can affect many individual components of cognitive function.
"The fact that you're training people in a molecule and finding transfer to atoms I think is very impressive," she said.
"This is one mode in which older people can stay mentally fit, cognitively fit," Kramer said. "I'm not suggesting, however, that it's the only thing they should do."
Other activities, in particular socializing, exercising and eating well, are also important to maintaining healthy cognitive function in later years, he said.
This research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging. The authors received no monetary or other support from the video game industry. The research appears in December in the journal Psychology & Aging. Adapted from materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS. Email or share this story: Nest step, take the folks who have completed this study and see how using Mind Sparke or Brain Builder or Posit Science impacts the participants test scores on the same battery?
Thanks Dr. Kramer, and for your lead researcher Chandramallika Basak.
Press Release from Posit Science-2-13-09
San Francisco, CA/February 11, 2009-- Study results to be published in the April 4, 2009 edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society are the first to show definitively that computerized brain exercises can improve memory and attention in older adults. An advance copy of the breakthrough study led by researchers from the University of Southern California and the Mayo Clinic has been released online.
A total of 487 healthy adults over the age of 65 participated in the randomized controlled trial, called the IMPACT Study. Half were assigned to a group that trained on a brain fitness software program for a total of 40 hours over the course of 8 weeks. The other half spent an equal amount of time learning from educational lectures on the computer followed by quizzes.
The study found that participants who trained on the software, The Brain Fitness Program™ from Posit Science®, more than doubled their processing speed, with an average increase of 131%. They also saw gains on standard measures of memory and attention of 10 years, on average. These changes were big enough that participants reported significant improvements in every day activities (such as remembering names or understanding conversations in noisy restaurants). The gains of the brain exercise group were clinically significant; the gains of the lecture group were significantly smaller and not clinically significant.
The Brain Fitness Program was developed by a global team of neuroscientists for Posit Science. It consists of six exercises done on a computer. The product is based on the science of brain plasticity – the ability of the brain to change and form new pathways in response to the right stimulation delivered in the right way.
Marlene Allen, aged 75, of Mill Valley, California participated in the brain exercise half of the study. “Now I don’t have to write down shopping lists. I remember what I need at the store,” Ms. Allen said. “And I almost never walk into a room and forget why anymore.”
While some earlier studies have shown older adults get better at exercises that they practice, this study goes two steps further. The improvements at the exercises resulted in gains in standard measures of memory and attention and people noticed improvements in their every day activities.
“The changes we saw in the experimental group were remarkable – and significantly larger than the gains in the control group,” said Liz Zelinski, PhD, a principal investigator for the study from the University of Southern California. “From a researcher’s point of view, this was very impressive because people got better at the tasks trained, those improvements generalized to standardized measures of memory and people noticed improvements in their lives. What this means is that cognitive decline is no longer an inevitable part of aging. Doing properly designed cognitive activities can enhance our abilities as we age.”
“We saw gains of 4% in memory scores in the brain exercise group,” said Glenn Smith, PhD, the study’s principal investigator from the Mayo Clinic. “That may not sound like much, but it is about what an older person normally loses in a 10 year period. The lectures group saw about a 2% gain, which may sound like they did half as well; however, we look at memory on a curve, not a straight line, and a 2% gain is not something you are apt to notice in your life.”
“This study has profound personal and public implications for aging baby boomers and their parents,” said Joe Coughlin, PhD, Director of the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute Technology. “This means boomers may now have tools for a future that is not their grandfather’s old age. It also impacts most aspects of independent living – from aging-in-place to transportation to all the great and little things that we call life. This is big news for aging and for all of us.”
The IMPACT study is the largest study ever of a brain fitness program that is available to the public and the first published in a medical journal to show improvements in memory and attention.
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