OK, Let's Hear It For Video Games

Imagine this.  Video games are good for something.  A new study says, aging's effects on the brain.

According to Brenda Goodman at webmd.com, it's not just any video game, it's a specially designed video game that may help "sharpen mental skills that fade with age, a new study shows."

The game, called NeuroRacer, requires players to multitask, or juggle several things that require attention at the same time. (Should we count out men?  Sorry, guys!)

"People had to keep a car centered in its lane and moving at a certain speed while they also tried to quickly and correctly identify signs that flashed onto the screen, distracting them from their driving," as Goodman describes the game.

She notes that other studies have found that the ability to multitask degrades with age (my husband hasn't been able to tie his sneakers and shut the door at the same time since his 30s!).  But seniors who regularly played NeuroRacer kept up, and could even outpace people half their age, at multitasking after only a month of playing.

Adults in their 20s saw a 28 percent drop in performance when they were doing two things at once, while those in their 30s saw their performance drop about 39 percent, in the study, Goodman reports.

Goodman quotes experts who say "Video games may not only stave off the mental deficits that come with age, but could also help in the diagnosis and treatment of mental problems."

The game was tested on seniors who were healthy both mentally and physically but now the creators of NeuroRacer may try it on kids with ADHD and depression.  

But can this be applied to real life?  Experts aren't sure.  ""They could argue that if you got better at this game then maybe you would be a safer driver when you're elderly," Dr. John Krakauer, director of the Brain, Learning, Animation and Movement Lab at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, told Goodman. "You may be able to look for what exit you need to take and stick to the road. [But] they haven't tested that," he said. "We don't know the answer to that."

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