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Online brain games can extend in-game ‘cognitive youth’ into old age, study says

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Online brain games can extend in-game 'cognitive youth' into old age, UCI-led study says
“The brain is not a muscle, but like our bodies, if we work out and train it, we can improve our mental performance,” says the study’s lead author, Mark Steyvers, a UCI professor of cognitive sciences. Credit: Steve Zylius, UCI

A University of California, Irvine-led study has found that online brain game exercises can enable people in their 70s and even 80s to multitask cognitively as well as individuals 50 years their junior. This is an increasingly valuable skill, given today’s daily information onslaught, which can divide attention and be particularly taxing for older adults.

“The brain is not a muscle, but like our bodies, if we work out and train it, we can improve our mental performance,” said lead author Mark Steyvers, a UCI professor of cognitive sciences. “We discovered that people in the upper age ranges who completed specific training tasks were able to beef up their brain’s ability to switch between tasks in the game at a level similar to untrained 20- and 30-year-olds.”

The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, underscore the cognitive cost of multitasking, which dilutes function by splitting focus, as well as the ways in which people across the lifespan can overcome the brain drain brought on by both the increasingly cluttered multimedia environment and the natural aging process.

For the study, Steyvers and his colleagues partnered with Lumosity, an online platform that offers a variety of daily brain training games. They focused on data from “Ebb and Flow”—a task-switching game that challenges the brain’s ability to shift between cognitive processes interpreting shapes and movement. Of the millions of people who played the game between 2012 and 2017, researchers randomly sampled the performance of about 1,000 users within two categories: those who ranged in age from 21 to 80 and had completed fewer than 60 training sessions; and adults 71 to 80 who had logged at least 1,000 sessions.

They found that the majority of older and highly practiced players were able to match or exceed the performance of younger users who had not played very much. Any lead seniors had, though, significantly declined after the 21- to 30-year-olds had completed more than 10 practice sessions.

“Medical advances and improved lifestyles are allowing us to live longer,” Steyvers said. “It’s important to factor brain health into that equation. We show that with consistent upkeep, cognitive youth can be retained well into our golden years.”


New app tests how mood affects cognitive performance


More information:
Mark Steyvers el al., “A large-scale analysis of task switching practice effects across the lifespan,” PNAS (2019). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1906788116

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University of California, Irvine

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Online brain games can extend in-game ‘cognitive youth’ into old age, study says (2019, August 19)
retrieved 20 August 2019
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Gaming News

1994: The Year of the Game Changer | 25YL

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25 Years Ago, in the world of video gaming it was, to put it mildly, a “fantastically exciting time” to be playing video games and to think to yourself “What is coming next?” “What will the next Mario game look like on a new next-generation console?”.

The year would have been 1994 at the time of writing this piece and we had been enjoying (and in some cases not) some of the most amazing games of all time during what I call the “16-Bit Era” of games. At least, in my opinion, that is. SEGA’s Mega Drive (Genesis for any American readers) had been a big success for its creators and went toe to toe with Nintendo’s Super Nintendo (Super Famicom if you happened to be in Japan).

Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive consoles from 1994

We had been treated to some astonishing games up until this point with the likes of Super Mario World, Sonic The Hedgehog 2 a few iterations of Street Fighter 2 (Turbo and Special Championship Edition’s, etc). We had Super Metroid, Super Soccer (ok maybe not that one!) and we had just got a glimpse of the future with games such as Star Wing (Star Fox for readers outside of Europe) and Virtua Racing. These showed the way with Polygons making the graphics we saw on screen whilst playing these games and things looked 3D…remember when 3D gaming was all the rage? I certainly do!

In the Arcades, we were starting to see games that would hit home consoles in the coming years. Big titles such as Ridge Racer which made Virtua Racing look very primitive and Tekken which made you think “If only Street Fighter 2 was like this!”. Then… we began to hear about some exciting “Super Consoles” that would appear on store shelves in Japan at the end of 1994. Those would be the Saturn from SEGA and a newcomer was about to enter the world of video gaming… Sony. The PlayStation would be in the hands of Japanese gamers by December of 94.

screen shot of Ryu vs Blanka in Street Fighter 2 on the SNES

Little did we know at the time the PlayStation would turn out to be a major big hit for Sony! Now some of the amazing looking experiences you had in the Arcades when you played the likes of Ridge Racer and Virtua Fighter were coming home on these new “Super Consoles”. In future articles, I will go into more depth about both the SEGA Saturn and Sony’s PlayStation. It would be a couple more years until Nintendo would release its challenger to what I call the “32-Bit CD-ROM Era”… the N64! The N64 wouldn’t follow what SEGA and Sony did and be a 32-Bit CD-ROM console, however, Nintendo stuck with Cartridges which at the time seemed a very odd thing to do especially given how much larger the games could be on a CD-ROM rather than a traditional ROM Cartridge. This, in my opinion, was a pretty bad move by Nintendo as it hampered Developers when it came to content. Often they would have to cut content out of the N64 version. 1 Such example that I knew back in the day was FIFA 98. Its play by play Commentary from the Legendary John Motson was incredibly limited when compared to the same game released on Nintendo’s competitor’s hardware.

Playstation 1, Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64 consoles

To finish up, it is unbelievable to think that the Sony PlayStation and SEGA Saturn are about to turn 25 years old at the end of 2019. Where has the time gone? What do you remember when someone mentions games from 1994? Did you remember hearing about the “Super Consoles”? Oh and RIP Commodore. They went bankrupt in April of 1994 and I remember being very sad as a young boy who spent a lot of his childhood playing games on a Commodore 64 and being wowed by the Commodore Amiga 500.


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