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Are Video Games Good Medicine For Seniors?

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Aug 22, 2013

Mind-Body-Spirit News

Your older clients are no doubt interested in complementing a fit body with a fit mind. Well, new study evidence suggests they can slow cognitive impairment by playing a few hours of “brain fit” video games designed to speed up and improve mental processing.

As the human brain ages, its executive function skills—which include perception, attention, memory, abstract thinking and problem solving—tend to diminish. Since many of us are living longer lives, scientists are motivated to identify ways to prevent this loss.

Researchers from the University of Iowa in Iowa City conducted a study with 681 male and female subjects aged 50 and older. They were divided into four groups (with each group further separated into those 50–64 years of age and those over age 65). One group did computerized crossword puzzles; another played “Double Decision,” a video game created by PositScience®, for 10 hours over a 5- to 8-week period in a lab; a third played the same game for 10 hours at home; and the fourth group played the video game in the lab for an additional 4 hours. All subjects received cognitive skills testing at the beginning of the study and a year after it.

Data analysis following the second testing showed that group members who played the video game for at least 10 hours either at home or in the lab gained at least 3 years of cognitive improvement, according to a formula devised by the researchers. Subjects who played for 14 hours showed a 4-year improvement. Those who played the brain skills game performed better than those who did crossword puzzles. Cognitive gains ranged from 1.5 years to almost 7 years.

Fredric Wolinsky, PhD, professor in the College of Public Health and lead study author, said in a press release, “We not only prevented the decline [in cognitive abilities]; we actually sped them up.”

He added, “It’s the ‘use it or lose it’ phenomenon—with a twist. Age-related cognitive decline is real, it’s happening, and it starts earlier and then continues steadily. Here, the exercise designed by neuroscientists delivered significant gains that generalized to daily life.”

Study findings appeared in PLOS One (2013; 8 [5], e61624).

The study is available online at To play the game, go to

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, was the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at