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Video games may be good for the brain, if you choose the right ones

May 3, 2013

If you're among active adults who have a smartphone, chances are you've played one of the many mentally stimulating games available, and according to new research from the University of Iowa, doing so may be part of a healthy lifestyle for seniors. The study, published recently in the journal PLOS One, found that older adults who play just two hours of mentally challenging video games each week can slow cognitive decline that often accompanies aging. 

To measure the positive impact video games can have, researchers recruited more than 680 adults 50 and older. After splitting them into four groups, they had one work on completing crossword puzzles while the other three played a challenging video game called Road Tour. Over the next five to eight weeks, the team found that those who played the games for at least 10 hours considerably slowed the rate of mental decay that comes with growing older. In some instances they slowed the progress by as much as seven years. 

"The findings clearly show that it is possible to improve older adults' cognitive functioning," Jason Allaire, an associate professor in the department of psychology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, told LiveScience. "It highlights the training approach and is focused on a lot of dividing attention and task-functioning, which is important to exercise in older adults."

This isn't the first time the video games have proven to offer more benefits than simply being a way to pass the time. In fact, a study earlier this year from N.C. State said much the same thing as the findings from Iowa. Researchers found that seniors who regularly play video games often enjoy a greater sense of emotional well-being.