Video games shown to help brain power for the elderly

Written by Dr. Andrew Doan & Brooke Strickland on .

A recent study published in Nature showed that after 12 hours of playing a road game that was created to help bolster focus and attention, healthy 70 and 80 year olds scored just as well as individuals that were 50 years younger.

Even after follow up six months later, brain power was improved and strengthened, even beyond the skills that they developed to play the game.  The study followed 16 elderly people that played a game called NeuroRacer for 12 hours at home. The results showed that their multitasking capability improved, as well as short term memory and attention span in dull situations.

The game, which took more than a year to create, was developed by Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist and director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center at the University of San Francisco. The game offered 3-D imagery, to make it lifelike and immersive, had a series of challenges built into it, as well as an element of fun, to keep players engaged and entertained.  The game forced people to drive while also pointing out intermittent signs along the way, which made players use two different set of skills at the same time.  At the beginning of the study, the older people’s performance on the driving game dropped by 65 percent when they had to point out certain street signs in addition to staying on the road. After practice, their performance dropped just 16 percent with the extra task – less than the drop for 20-somethings that played the game. Brain scans and cognitive tests confirmed the improvement. (1) Now, Gazzaley is also working to design other games and sell them to help those that struggle with depression or ADHD.

What to take away from the study: Video games aren’t all bad! When played constructively and with limitations on time and use, video games can stimulate the brain and encourage learning – even in old age.  However, positive research on gaming should not be used to justify an obsession with playing video games.
Gaming and technology addiction is very real. For more information, visit

Source: Weintraub, Karen. “Video games may improve brain power in older adults.” Special for USA Today. September 4, 2013. Accessed September 7, 2013.

Article written by Brooke Strickland