A new study led by neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley of the University of California, San Francisco found that the video game "NeuroRacer" helped older participants improve their ability to multitask, which also carried over into their everyday lives. The study also showed how patterns of brain activity change as those cognitive skills improve.
In NeuroRacer players drive a car along a winding rode with their left thumb, while keeping an eye out for signs that appear at random. If the sign is a particular shape and color, players are supposed to shoot it using a finger on their right hand. According to Gazzaley, this multitasking exercise uses a number of cognitive skills used in real life such as attention focusing, task switching, and working memory.
The study used 30 participants for six age groups from the ages between 20 and 70, and confirmed that multitasking skills as measured by the game deteriorated linearly with age. They then recruited 46 participants ages 60–85 and put them through a 4-week training period with a version of NeuroRacer that increased in difficulty as the player improved.
The results showed that those older subjects had improved so much that they achieved higher scores than untrained 20-year-old participants, and the skills remained six months later without practice.
Researchers also conducted a series of cognitive tests on the participants before and after training. Certain cognitive abilities that were not specifically targeted by the game improved and remained improved such as working memory and sustained attention. Both skills are important for simple daily tasks.
The instructional video to your left gives you and idea of what participants experienced while taking part in the study.
Source: Scientific American