It’s something that anyone who plays games regularly can attest to: Video games improve our lives in a variety of different ways. But for those who still believe that video games are children’s toys or “a waste of time,” a recent study conducted by the University of Iowa (via the NY Daily News) should help you realize just how beneficial playing games can be. In short, the study found that playing video games can not only prevent, but potentially reverse decaying brain functions that deteriorate with age; such as visual processing, memory, and reasoning.
This particular experiment focused on an older age group, featuring participants ranging from 50 to 65 years old and including some over 65 as well. From there, four groups were formed. One group was given computerized crossword puzzles, while the remaining three played a more visually engaging simulation game titled “Road Tour.” This game challenged the groups to recall a specific model of car, with it’s type only fleetingly identified on the license plate as it drove by.
The study found that the more time each group spent with the game, the better their cognitive abilities improved. Those who spent at least ten hours playing the game over the course of a year gained around three years of cognitive improvement when tested afterwards. Folks who played for an additional four hours past that saw cognitive improvement up to the equivalent of seven years. This means that the process of age-related mental decline was not only slowed, but reversed for those who participated in the “Road Tour” activity. (The crossword puzzle, alas, wasn’t nearly as productive in terms of improving these cognitive functions.)
The team explains the achieved results by suggesting the games exercised and enhanced the brain’s processing speed. University of Iowa professor of public health Fredric Wolinsky said that, “as we get older, our visual field collapses on us. We get tunnel vision. It’s a normal functioning of aging. This helps to explain why most accidents happen at intersections because older folks are looking straight ahead and are less aware of peripherals.” Playing video games can help by not only keeping the mind active and engaged, but also continuously reinforcing positive brain activity to improve memory, critical thinking, and reaction time.
It’s always nice to see active studies being done to show the positive aspects of gaming. I certainly remember the most impactful experiences gaming has had on me personally, and I continue to reap the benefits of playing games every day in nearly every aspect of daily life. Ideally, we will one day redesign current education curriculum to include gaming as a powerful tool to reinforce community building, self-confidence and the million other ways gaming benefits players. But that’s a discussion for another day (or a reading excursion for those interested in how Reality is Broken,) so I digress.
How has gaming benefited you folks? Do you have any anecdotal stories about a single game in particular that changed your life? Share your story in the comments below, and don’t forget to like IGXPro on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or give us the ‘ol +1 on Google+. If you can’t get enough of my shenanigans, (who could blame you?) you can check me out @GamingsNirvana, or add +VinnyParisi to your circles.
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