Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Brain Training for the Fast Lane

Good news for geezers who have been confined to long walks and The New York Times crossword puzzle to stave off mental stagnation. A new study says we can stay sharp by playing 3D video games.

BrainTraining

Never mind anecdotal evidence from parents that video games turn teenage boys into zombies. This fresh research demonstrates that driving on the virtual straightaways and curves of NeuroRacer can restore mental dexterity and the ability to multi-task.

One can argue the value of multi-tasking when your are in your 70s and 80s. By then, you’ve earned the right to slow down and smell the roses. But slowing down physically also can come at the price of slowing down mentally.

The concept behind NeuroRacer is that you can train your brain for the fast lane, regardless of age.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco teamed with video game producers to create NeuroRacer, which involves using a joystick to navigate a windy, undulating road and pushing a button when a green “road” sign appears. Video game driving becomes a form of mental exercise, with steadily more challenging virtual maneuvering.

After training on the video game, the study’s 46 human guinea pigs between the ages of 60 and 85 showed marked improvement in memory, attention and response. One participant was a 65-year-old woman who admitted she walked to her refrigerator, but often forgot why.

Seniors don’t have to resort to playing video games to avoid senior moments. Vigorous exercise, a good book and math problems are also proven methods of retaining cerebral sharpness. But the study underlies an overlooked fact – our brains don’t decay just because we get older.

People still have significant cognitive powers as they age, but like any muscle, your brain won’t be able to flex its stuff unless you routinely put it to the test. Driving around on your computer screen is something you can do while alone and when it is raining outside. And you don’t have to worry about a fender-bender or a traffic jam. It’s the perfect complement to re-reading “War and Peace.”

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/09/04/218892225/multitasking-after-60-video-game-boosts-focus-mental-agility

http://blog.aarp.org/2013/09/06/zoom-zoom-video-games-may-help-make-old-brains-act-young-again/

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