Evidence That Video Gaming Can Increase Cognitive Skills


A few training sessions on a 3-D video game increased research participant’s multitasking performance. Follow up at six months revealed the cognitive improvements had lasted.

This was discovered by neuroscientists at the University of California in San Francisco.


Adam Gazzaley and his group of researchers developed a game they call NeuroRacer to measure people’s multitasking capacity. Individuals ranging from college-age to seniors were put behind the wheel of a virtual car. They were asked to steer it around a winding track using one finger on their left hand.

Simultaneously, the video racers were told to signal, using a finger on their right hand, the presence of randomly appearing road signs with a certain color and shape. Initially, and not surprisingly, game performance declined as the age of the drivers increased.

With A Little Practice

After using NeuroRacer for only 12 hours over a month’s time, 60 to 85 year old gamers improved their scores significantly and outperformed 20 year olds who had not played the game earlier.

Cognitive improvements were also noted in abilities not directly targeted by NeuroRacer. The older study subjects showed gains in sustained attention, and working memory which are not capacities the game requires. “So it appears that the multitasking challenge may put pressure on the entire cognitive control system, raising the level of all its components,” said Gazzaley.

Gazzaley and other researchers caution that this does not indicate video gaming is a “guaranteed panacea” for cognitive decline. Previous research using video games to slow or reverse age-related mental decline have had mixed results, and follow-up studies are needed to validate the initial NeuroRacer outcomes.

Fun Factor

A neuroscientist at the University of Birmingham, Emil Toescu, points out, “The technology is not yet sufficiently proven to recommend itself for immediate adoption by older people. But, on the other hand, a moderately complex gaming experience is always good fun, whatever the age, and it cannot do damage.”

For people who do not want to invest in video games, there a several online “brain game” sites that you can look into, such as Luminosity. The games are challenging at different levels of difficulty, and are fun. They do no harm, and just might sharpen the old saw.

Source: The Scientist

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