Computer Games for Grandma

Cognitive decline in the elderly was reversed by a computer game designed for kids

(RxWiki News) Can people stay sharp well into old age? New computer games that give specific mental functions a good workout could help get older minds back in younger shape.

A recent study tested seniors to see if a computer game made to help kids with learning problems could help them improve their mental sharpness.

Results showed that eight weeks of hard work lasted for 18 months.

"Stay sharp with puzzles!"

Elzbieta Szelag, PhD, Head of the Laboratory of Neuropsychology at the Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology in Warsaw, Poland, led an experiment into improving cognitive function in the elderly.

For the study, 30 participants aged 65 and 75 were placed in three groups.

The first group played memory and logic games from a computer program called Fast ForWord (FFW).

FFW was designed to engage and strengthen temporal information processing (TPI) and was originally created to help children with learning delays.

TPI controls how people process auditory information, which is used for making new memories, learning, thinking, forming concepts and perception.

The second group played regular computer games, like Solitaire or other Internet games, that were not designed to help TPI.

The third group was simply a control group.

Each of the participants had their cognitive abilities in attention, logic, memory and auditory processing tested before the study began.

During the study, groups one and two did the computer game exercises one hour per day, four days per week, for eight weeks.

Results of the study showed that TPI training worked in helping seniors with memory, attention span, logic, learning and auditory processing.

Several of the positive TPI improvements from the FFW training lasted for up to 18 months.

Dr. Szelag said, “Our study showed for the first time significant benefits of temporal training on broad aspects of cognitive function in the elderly. The results were long-lasting, with effects confirmed 18 months after the training.”

“Although FFW does not train other cognitive functions directly, attention and short-term memory resources were necessary to perform the training tasks correctly.”

Dr. Szelag’s study results have inspired the Laboratory of Neuropsychology to design more computer programs to work on many different types of cognitive functions for both children and adults.

Though this study was very small, the results were promising.  Further studies should be done to confirm these results on a larger group.

This study was published in August in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience. No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were foun.

Review Date: 
August 20, 2012