When it comes to its effect on our minds, the advantages and disadvantages of technology have long been debated. The argument has often been particularly fierce around the topic of gaming technology. Many parents strongly believe that spending too much time immersed in computer games is a negative for children’s mental development. The other side of the argument is that playing computer games has been demonstrated to help develop certain aspects of mental agility.
A new brain training game is providing evidence that gaming technology can indeed help strengthen mental processes with research conducted by scientists finding that it can reduce the risk of developing dementia by up to a third. The game is designed to train the player’s brain in a way that speeds up its ability to process visual images and the study was recently published in the Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Translation Research and Clinical Interventions journal. Its findings were that as little as several hours of playing the game resulted in benefits that lasted for up to a decade.
The team behind the gaming technology conducted research on over 2800 individuals with an average age of 74 over 10 years. The research subjects were split between one control group and three other groups who used the game with different focuses, included memory training, ‘speed of processing’ training and reasoning exercises.
A decade later, the group that had been assigned the game focused on speed of processing training were seen to be 29% less likely to have developed dementia. The speed of processing game consists of images of objects being flashed up, like sweater or a car, and the subjects then being shown a line-up of similar objects from which players were asked to pick out that which had been flashed up.
However, other experts have cautioned that the technology’s true advantages cannot yet be said to be proven as the test sample of individuals the research has been so far conducted on is not large enough to be considered statistically significant. The study also relied on subjects themselves reporting whether or not they had developed any signs of dementia, rather than clinical diagnosis.
Peter Passmore, Professor of Ageing and Geriatric Medicine at Queen’s University Belfast, commented “these results must be interpreted with caution as a result, as they could easily be overstated.”
Nonetheless, there does appear to be a strong case that, further to additional research involving larger study groups, similar gaming technology could genuinely have advantages if used as a preventative treatment for dementia and Alzheimer’s.