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!
Abstract: It has been suggested that video game training enhances cognitive functions in young and older adults. However, effects across studies are mixed. We conducted a meta-analysis to examine the hypothesis that training healthy older adults with video games enhances their cognitive functioning. The studies included in the meta-analysis were video game training interventions with pre- and posttraining measures. Twenty experimental studies published between 1986 and 2013, involving 474 trained and 439 healthy older controls, met the inclusion criteria. The results indicate that video game training produces positive effects on several cognitive functions, including reaction time (RT), attention, memory, and global cognition. The heterogeneity test did not show a significant heterogeneity (I(2) = 20.69%) but this did not preclude a further examination of moderator variables. The magnitude of this effect was moderated by methodological and personal factors, including the age of the trainees and the duration of the intervention. The findings suggest that cognitive and neural plasticity is maintained to a certain extent in old age. Training older adults with video games enhances several aspects of cognition and might be a valuable intervention for cognitive enhancement.
Pub.: 23 Sep '14, Pinned: 25 Jul '17
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
Abstract: The relations between video-game experience and cognitive abilities were examined in the current study. In two experiments, subjects performed a number of working memory, fluid intelligence, and attention-control measures and filled out a questionnaire about their video-game experience. In Experiment 1, an extreme-groups analysis indicated that experienced video-game players outperformed nonplayers on several cognitive-ability measures. However, in Experiments 1 and 2, when analyses examined the full range of subjects at both the task level and the latent-construct level, nearly all of the relations between video-game experience and cognitive abilities were near zero. These results cast doubt on recent claims that playing video games leads to enhanced cognitive abilities. Statistical and methodological issues with prior studies of video-game experience are discussed along with recommendations for future studies.
Pub.: 22 Apr '15, Pinned: 25 Jul '17
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
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
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
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
Abstract: Declines in various cognitive abilities, particularly executive control functions, are observed in older adults. An important goal of cognitive training is to slow or reverse these age-related declines. However, opinion is divided in the literature regarding whether cognitive training can engender transfer to a variety of cognitive skills in older adults. In the current study, the authors trained older adults in a real-time strategy video game for 23.5 hr in an effort to improve their executive functions. A battery of cognitive tasks, including tasks of executive control and visuospatial skills, were assessed before, during, and after video-game training. The trainees improved significantly in the measures of game performance. They also improved significantly more than the control participants in executive control functions, such as task switching, working memory, visual short-term memory, and reasoning. Individual differences in changes in game performance were correlated with improvements in task switching. The study has implications for the enhancement of executive control processes of older adults.
Pub.: 15 Jan '09, Pinned: 25 Jul '17
Abstract: In this longitudinal intervention study with experimental and control groups, we investigated the effects of video game training on the visuospatial working memory (WM) and episodic memory of healthy older adults. Participants were 19 volunteer older adults, who received 15 1-h video game training sessions with a series of video games selected from a commercial package (Lumosity), and a control group of 20 healthy older adults. The results showed that the performance of the trainees improved significantly in all the practiced video games. Most importantly, we found significant enhancements after training in the trained group and no change in the control group in two computerized tasks designed to assess visuospatial WM, namely the Corsi blocks task and the Jigsaw puzzle task. The episodic memory and short-term memory of the trainees also improved. Gains in some WM and episodic memory tasks were maintained during a 3-month follow-up period. These results suggest that the aging brain still retains some degree of plasticity, and that video game training might be an effective intervention tool to improve WM and other cognitive functions in older adults.
Pub.: 21 May '16, Pinned: 25 Jul '17
Abstract: Salthouse illustrated that among Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) participants, cognitive change accelerated following training. Our goal was to determine if this finding persists net of practice, training, and loss of training gains effects.We evaluated change over 5 years following cognitive training among older adults (N = 1,659, age 65 to 94).Reasoning training, but not memory or speed, attenuated aging-related change. Memory gains were maintained, but about half of reasoning and speed gains were lost. Performance differences at the end of the follow-up were equivalent to about 6, 4, and 8 years of aging for memory, reasoning, and speed training, respectively.Training can appear to accelerate age-related change, because change over time is coupled with loss of training gains. Our analysis is limited by follow-up that is short for precisely characterizing aging-related change.
Pub.: 30 Oct '12, Pinned: 25 Jul '17
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