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this curator

Master of Science student at Dalhousie University's Medical Neuroscience department.

I'm interested in human anatomy and enjoy a special focus on retinal circuitry and function.


Video games are already known to benefit hand-eye coordination but they may ward off dementia too.

In 10 seconds? Video games may be a sure-fire way to battle the memory-loss effects of dementia. Although some level of dementia seems inevitable with aging, video games crafted to train our memory skills may keep our brains sharp.

The latest in brain training. When asked to remember what location was paired with which type of geometrical object, pre-dementia patients were rewarded with motivating virtual gold coins for correct responses. This memory game format, developed on an app called ‘Game Show’ by researchers at the University of Cambridge, improved patients’ memories by up to 40%.

Why focus on shapes and locations? ‘Game Show’ was designed to train players’ episodic memory. This is the memory of events and places. This is basically the who, what, when where, and why of our memory—a lot of what we use on the daily… wait what was I saying again?

Benefits of gaming to people with dementia. Patients showing symptoms of approaching dementia improved their memory with the use of ‘Game Show’, but also increased their own confidence in their memory abilities. This boost in self-confidence and motivation is good news as it is generally agreed upon that more optimistic patients tend to have better outcomes.

Prevention is the best medicine! A study started in 1998 from Johns Hopkins used a different brain training video game. 10 years after the study, which included a group that got a 5-week video game intervention and two groups that did not, the researchers looked at the onset of dementia in their patients. Patients that played the brain training video game only had an 8.2% incidence of dementia symptoms as compared to 12-14% incidences in the control groups!

Moving forward. Without any current pharmaceuticals available or clinical trials running which effectively combat the symptoms of dementia, there is a rapidly growing problem. A world with an aging population requires a shift in its efforts to treat aging-related memory-loss and cognitive decline. Video games are potentially the answer. Pull out those consoles, people!


Randomized controlled trial of a healthy brain ageing cognitive training program: effects on memory, mood, and sleep.

Abstract: With the rise in the ageing population and absence of a cure for dementia, cost-effective prevention strategies for those 'at risk' of dementia including those with depression and/or mild cognitive impairment are urgently required.This study evaluated the efficacy of a multifaceted Healthy Brain Ageing Cognitive Training (HBA-CT) program for older adults 'at risk' of dementia.Using a single-blinded design, 64 participants (mean age = 66.5 years, SD = 8.6) were randomized to an immediate treatment (HBA-CT) or treatment-as-usual control arm. The HBA-CT intervention was conducted twice-weekly for seven weeks and comprised group-based psychoeducation about cognitive strategies and modifiable lifestyle factors pertaining to healthy brain ageing, and computerized cognitive training.In comparison to the treatment-as-usual control arm, the HBA-CT program was associated with improvements in verbal memory (p = 0.03), self-reported memory (p = 0.03), mood (p = 0.01), and sleep (p = 0.01). While the improvements in memory (p = 0.03) and sleep (p = 0.02) remained after controlling for improvements in mood, only a trend in verbal memory improvement was apparent after controlling for sleep.The HBA-CT program improves cognitive, mood, and sleep functions in older adults 'at risk' of dementia, and therefore offers promise as a secondary prevention strategy.

Pub.: 20 Nov '14, Pinned: 25 Jul '17

A randomized controlled trial of brain training with non-action video games in older adults: results of the 3-month follow-up.

Abstract: This randomized controlled study (ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02007616) investigated the maintenance of training effects of 20 1-hr non-action video game training sessions with selected games from a commercial package on several age-declining cognitive functions and subjective wellbeing after a 3-month no-contact period. Two groups of cognitively normal older adults participated in both the post-training (posttest) and the present follow-up study, the experimental group who received training and the control group who attended several meetings with the research team during the study but did not receive training. Groups were similar at baseline on demographics, vocabulary, global cognition, and depression status. Significant improvements in the trained group, and no variation in the control group had been previously found at posttest, in processing speed, attention and visual recognition memory, as well as in two dimensions of subjective wellbeing. In the current study, improvement from baseline to 3 months follow-up was found only in wellbeing (Affection and Assertivity dimensions) in the trained group whereas there was no change in the control group. Previous significant improvements in processing speed, attention and spatial memory become non-significant after the 3-month interval. Training older adults with non-action video games enhanced aspects of cognition just after training but this effect disappeared after a 3-month no-contact follow-up period. Cognitive plasticity can be induced in older adults by training, but to maintain the benefits periodic boosting sessions would be necessary.

Pub.: 01 May '15, Pinned: 25 Jul '17

Virtual Environmental Enrichment through Video Games Improves Hippocampal-Associated Memory.

Abstract: The positive effects of environmental enrichment and their neural bases have been studied extensively in the rodent (van Praag et al., 2000). For example, simply modifying an animal's living environment to promote sensory stimulation can lead to (but is not limited to) enhancements in hippocampal cognition and neuroplasticity and can alleviate hippocampal cognitive deficits associated with neurodegenerative diseases and aging. We are interested in whether these manipulations that successfully enhance cognition (or mitigate cognitive decline) have similar influences on humans. Although there are many "enriching" aspects to daily life, we are constantly adapting to new experiences and situations within our own environment on a daily basis. Here, we hypothesize that the exploration of the vast and visually stimulating virtual environments within video games is a human correlate of environmental enrichment. We show that video gamers who specifically favor complex 3D video games performed better on a demanding recognition memory task that assesses participants' ability to discriminate highly similar lure items from repeated items. In addition, after 2 weeks of training on the 3D video game Super Mario 3D World, naive video gamers showed improved mnemonic discrimination ability and improvements on a virtual water maze task. Two control conditions (passive and training in a 2D game, Angry Birds), showed no such improvements. Furthermore, individual performance in both hippocampal-associated behaviors correlated with performance in Super Mario but not Angry Birds, suggesting that how individuals explored the virtual environment may influence hippocampal behavior.The hippocampus has long been associated with episodic memory and is commonly thought to rely on neuroplasticity to adapt to the ever-changing environment. In animals, it is well understood that exposing animals to a more stimulating environment, known as environmental enrichment, can stimulate neuroplasticity and improve hippocampal function and performance on hippocampally mediated memory tasks. Here, we suggest that the exploration of vast and visually stimulating environments within modern-day video games can act as a human correlate of environmental enrichment. Training naive video gamers in a rich 3D, but not 2D, video game, resulted in a significant improvement in hippocampus-associated cognition using several behavioral measures. Our results suggest that modern day video games may provide meaningful stimulation to the human hippocampus.

Pub.: 15 Dec '15, Pinned: 25 Jul '17

Cognitive training with casual video games: points to consider.

Abstract: Brain training programs have proliferated in recent years, with claims that video games or computer-based tasks can broadly enhance cognitive function. However, benefits are commonly seen only in trained tasks. Assessing generalized improvement and practicality of laboratory exercises complicates interpretation and application of findings. In this study, we addressed these issues by using active control groups, training tasks that more closely resemble real-world demands and multiple tests to determine transfer of training. We examined whether casual video games can broadly improve cognition, and selected training games from a study of the relationship between game performance and cognitive abilities. A total of 209 young adults were randomized into a working memory-reasoning group, an adaptive working memory-reasoning group, an active control game group, and a no-contact control group. Before and after 15 h of training, participants completed tests of reasoning, working memory, attention, episodic memory, perceptual speed, and self-report measures of executive function, game experience, perceived improvement, knowledge of brain training research, and game play outside the laboratory. Participants improved on the training games, but transfer to untrained tasks was limited. No group showed gains in reasoning, working memory, episodic memory, or perceptual speed, but the working memory-reasoning groups improved in divided attention, with better performance in an attention-demanding game, a decreased attentional blink and smaller trail-making costs. Perceived improvements did not differ across training groups and those with low reasoning ability at baseline showed larger gains. Although there are important caveats, our study sheds light on the mixed effects in the training and transfer literature and offers a novel and potentially practical training approach. Still, more research is needed to determine the real-world benefits of computer programs such as casual games.

Pub.: 17 Jan '14, Pinned: 25 Jul '17

Brain training with non-action video games enhances aspects of cognition in older adults: a randomized controlled trial.

Abstract: Age-related cognitive and brain declines can result in functional deterioration in many cognitive domains, dependency, and dementia. A major goal of aging research is to investigate methods that help to maintain brain health, cognition, independent living and wellbeing in older adults. This randomized controlled study investigated the effects of 20 1-h non-action video game training sessions with games selected from a commercially available package (Lumosity) on a series of age-declined cognitive functions and subjective wellbeing. Two groups of healthy older adults participated in the study, the experimental group who received the training and the control group who attended three meetings with the research team along the study. Groups were similar at baseline on demographics, vocabulary, global cognition, and depression status. All participants were assessed individually before and after the intervention, or a similar period of time, using neuropsychological tests and laboratory tasks to investigate possible transfer effects. The results showed significant improvements in the trained group, and no variation in the control group, in processing speed (choice reaction time), attention (reduction of distraction and increase of alertness), immediate and delayed visual recognition memory, as well as a trend to improve in Affection and Assertivity, two dimensions of the Wellbeing Scale. Visuospatial working memory (WM) and executive control (shifting strategy) did not improve. Overall, the current results support the idea that training healthy older adults with non-action video games will enhance some cognitive abilities but not others.

Pub.: 30 Oct '14, Pinned: 25 Jul '17

The impact of neuroscience on society: cognitive enhancement in neuropsychiatric disorders and in healthy people.

Abstract: In addition to causing distress and disability to the individual, neuropsychiatric disorders are also extremely expensive to society and governments. These disorders are both common and debilitating and impact on cognition, functionality and wellbeing. Cognitive enhancing drugs, such as cholinesterase inhibitors and methylphenidate, are used to treat cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, respectively. Other cognitive enhancers include specific computerized cognitive training and devices. An example of a novel form of cognitive enhancement using the technological advancement of a game on an iPad that also acts to increase motivation is presented. Cognitive enhancing drugs, such as methylphenidate and modafinil, which were developed as treatments, are increasingly being used by healthy people. Modafinil not only affects 'cold' cognition, but also improves 'hot' cognition, such as emotion recognition and task-related motivation. The lifestyle use of 'smart drugs' raises both safety concerns as well as ethical issues, including coercion and increasing disparity in society. As a society, we need to consider which forms of cognitive enhancement (e.g. pharmacological, exercise, lifelong learning) are acceptable and for which groups (e.g. military, doctors) under what conditions (e.g. war, shift work) and by what methods we would wish to improve and flourish.

Pub.: 05 Aug '15, Pinned: 25 Jul '17