Computer Games for Brain Fitness

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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.”

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. When I lift weights, the strength that results is very useful in lawn mowing and parenting realms. It makes it possible for me to wrestle with my kids, for example, and even their friends. 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 parenting and counseling practice in the same way. I also like to know what Dr. I would like to know what Dr. Kramer’s opinion of the fluid intelligence training provided by the dual n back task is in regards to executive intelligence.

“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.”

This has been a concern for me with some of the commercial programs available to consumers. Other programs have indicated that the training in the exercise translates to other activities, and some have said there is limited or no transfer to activities not specifically in the game. Kramer is saying. I would be very curious to know what games the researchers tried and discarded and why.

“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.”

So it is old age and not ADD? Will my wife believe that? She is already sceptical].

The evidence in this study indicates that there was improvement.

“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.


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