As healthcare and medicine continue to develop rapidly, we are able to treat and even cure some diseases that were formerly certain to be deadly. Due to this, people are living up to 80 years, much longer than they did before. Unfortunately, the brain is not immune to the effects of aging that come with living a long time. Some lack of cognitive control might impact a person’s social life even if they don’t have a major neurological disorder. Therefore, it is not only necessary but urgent to study how the brain changes during aging, how this impacts cognitive ability, and how to counteract this trend. The Neuroscape Center at the University of California, San Francisco has been studying healthy aging for several years, and as a result, they have created a set of video game interventions that may help the aging brain retain some of its lost cognitive function. These adaptive, closed-loop games are designed to target specific cognitive abilities that are known to decline with age, such as multitasking, short-term memory, long-term memory, and attention.
According to the original 2013 study, Adam Gazzaley and colleagues showed that multitasking ability, which typically diminishes after age 20, maybe resurrected using a custom-designed 3D video game called NeuroRacer. This customized challenge-level game features both a single-task mode in which players must drive through a road and respond as quickly as possible to an appearing sign and a multitask mode in which players must perform both the drive and sign tasks simultaneously. This game was evaluated by a group of senior citizens who spent 12 hours playing it over the course of a month. The EEG activity recorded before and after the experiment provided evidence that the participants’ multitasking performance had improved and even remained stable for a period of 6 months without further training. Moreover, the individuals’ working memory and attention, both of which are thought to decline with age, were demonstrated to be enhanced.
To aid in the retention of information over time, Labyrinth was created as virtual reality (VR) spatial wayfinding game for the elderly. Loss of long-term memory is the most prevalent effect of aging that can disrupt a person’s daily life. It is believed that Labyrinth is the first therapeutic video game intervention to successfully restore high-fidelity LTM. Before this, it had been established that rodents trained in spatial navigation tasks showed increased plasticity and enhanced hippocampal function, one of the brain regions involved in memory maintenance. Consequently, Neuroscape’s scientists created Labyrinth, a virtual reality (VR) experience in which users wear a head-mounted VR display and get immersed in new and visually elaborate environments. Walking around in this virtual world, individuals are tasked with completing various missions as they learn their way around. The participants who tried the virtual reality game for a period of one month showed considerable improvements in high-fidelity LTM, which were assessed using various memory tests.
Body Brain Trainer
This year has also seen the release of another video game intervention, Body Brain Trainer, which aims to improve the cognitive and physical health of older adults. Integrating cognitive and physical training has been demonstrated to have synergistic effects on physical fitness and cognitive abilities. Scientists at Neuroscape created a motion-capture game in which players physically react to mental challenges by moving their entire bodies. To maintain interest and provide a challenging experience, the game features a wide range of tasks of varying degrees of difficulty. In order to provide a more tailored experience and allow users to keep tabs on their health, the game ships with a heart-rate monitor. The results of attention-based assessments and an analysis of the participants’ EEG activity before and after two months of gameplay revealed that the players’ attention capabilities had improved. Not only that, but their levels of physical fitness exceeded those of the comparison group.
Musical Rhythm Training
The Neuroscape Center’s newest video game interface takes inspiration from music rhythm training. Multiple cognitive abilities, such as sensory perception, selective attention, and short-term memory, have been shown to improve with musical training. Therefore, the subjects in this study were given eight weeks of digital musical rhythm instruction. At the conclusion of the experiment, participants’ short-term memories for a face-recognition test were significantly improved. Even the EEG activity associated with short-term memory encoding got a boost from the training.
Scientists at the Neuroscape Center are working hard to improve the cognitive function of older adults so that they can live a more productive and comfortable life through the use of these highly adaptive and selective gaming experiences rather than therapeutic drugs, which have their own set of side effects.
Follow The Brainy Bits for more interesting content