I’ve used gaming to improve my physical health, playing games like the XBOX One Fitness app and games like Just Dance. But as I get older, I’m thinking a little more about caring for my brain health, too, not just my fitness level for heart and lungs and weight.
Several studies, like this one from the Max Planck Institute, have found in the last few years that video gaming causes an increase in the brain regions responsible for spatial orientation, memory formation and strategic planning as well as fine motor skills. Other research also shows that spatial orientation and memory formation clearly improve (especially in girls who appear to improve more than boys).
In the study, people played the Super Mario 64 video game and their brains were monitored before and after the session. It was found that there are positive effects of video gaming that may be useful in therapeutic interventions targeting psychiatric disorders. The video gaming group showed increases of gray matter in the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum, measured using MRI.
Ageing is a daunting process, partly because some of the first things to go are memory, attention and motor skills. The idea that some form of regular mental activity—doing a crossword, for example—can postpone mental decline is not new. Now researchers have found another: playing certain types of interactive games could help the elderly stay sharper for longer.
So there is reason to think video game training enhances cognitive control in older adults. ‘Serious gaming’ and dementia friendly design innovation and new research on how video games improve aging brains is apparently the way to go to extend our cognitive abilities for future generations.
With all that data to show how we can retain our cognitive functions as we age, here’s my recommended gaming activities:
For mobile games, there’s lots of options, you can even find games specifically targeting improving cognition. My mobile recommendation here is to choose a Mystery Game!
Put on your detective hat and grab your favorite magnifying glass, mystery games will have you puzzling out crimes, murders, or other stranger unknowns. What is that strange light in the sky? Where does that underground passage lead? Time to find yourself some answers.
If you’re new to mystery games, here’s my recommendation Layton Brothers Mystery Room, this is an editor’s choice on iTunes and GooglePlay store. It’s more than mystery, it’s a puzzle adventure video game. While it’s a little old, it’s very popular and lots of fun! Check the video trailer.
Another option for you is playing American roulette, it’s a very leisurely form of recreation and easy to get caught up in the excitement of the game.
There’s also the console games for XBOX One & Playstation, take your pick. First person shooters in my opinion give the most bang for the buck with visual and aural stimulation while requiring a fast neural response time as you interact with AI bots and other players. Examples include Halo 5 or Playstation’s VR version of Star Wars Battlefront.