By Interactive Metronome - April 18, 2014

Video gaming adults helping their brains!

We’ve talked at length about the advantages of neurofeedback and video games that work on the domain-general mechanism of timing. Up until now, we have spent most of our time focusing on children; after all, we generally associate video games with children. However, lately, gamers have been getting older and spending more hours playing video games. Nowadays, there are people that don’t have to wait to be done with school or work to play video games.

Video games are big business. Video game players are 30 years old on average, meaning they have plenty of disposable income and time to spend gaming. Additionally, games are now on mobile devices more than ever before. The mobile phone market has penetration of 101% (yes, there is more than one phone per person in America) and 60% of people play games on their mobile phone. Even though children now carry phones, the majority of those gamers are adults.

We know games aren’t going anywhere. In fact, with buzz words like ‘gamification’ catching on with marketers, it is likely we will see even more games in our daily lives. So, what are all these games doing to our brains? We have talked at length about the different mechanisms at play in the brain. Clearly, programs like Lumosity and Cogmed can only do so much when the training just makes you better at the game you are playing. Now, we are not one to disparage others; playing games is fun, it keeps your brain active and there is no risk to any brain training. Staying engaged also helps with mood and competing at games naturally makes people feel better.

But what if you really do want play a game that makes you a better driver, or better at balancing your checkbook? That is the challenge. As we have discussed in our article about children, it is the neurofeedback and performance measurement that allows for success. You have to have that feedback to know that you are improving the right mechanism, in this case timing, which is a domain-general mechanism.

A study by Dr. Adam Gazzaley, director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center, showed that adults ages 60-85 could slow cognitive decline as they aged by using video game training. In Dr. Gazzaley’s study, subjects played a game called NeuroRacer that was designed to mimic driving by forcing people to navigate a course while taking into account road signs and avoiding distractions. What really sets the game apart is its difficulty; when players become better at the game, the game learns and makes it harder. It is this progression that drives success, much like changing the difficulty in IM (or simply changing to auto-difficulty); it keeps clients engaged and determined. The results suggest that the training went beyond driving, ultimately helping with both memory and sustained attention.

Dr. Gazzaley’s subjects’ electroencephalographs (EEG) showed changes to the brain’s functional neural networks involved in cognitive control. Gazzaley said that these findings point to a “common neural basis of cognitive control this is enhanced by the challenging and high-interference conditions of the video game, and this might explain how [the game] could improve something as seemingly unrelated as memory.”

Others are finally taking note of the importance of video game training. Peter Etchells, a psychologist who studies the effects of computer games on the brain, said that the study was a “great example of how video games tailored to specific populations can be used to improve mental health. We hear a lot about how video games might be bad for us, but it’s not really a simple, black-and-white story.”

Although these studies don’t show any benefit from a game like Call of Duty or Mario Kart, it is promising for adults who feel like they have lost something cognitively. Research suggests that the brain starts to decline as early as age 24, leaving many people unsure of their mental capacity in 60 years. Now, there is hope for improvement. By incorporating neurotiming training and movement into therapy, properly tailored video game therapy can push people to succeed and surpass any therapeutic goal.

And isn’t that what it is all about? Getting back to a quality life for ourselves, friends or family is all any of us care about. Combining video games with therapy is a great way to stay engaged, motivated and even pain free during training. That’s right, pain free! (check out number five)  A study by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine showed that video games improved:

1.       Psychological therapy outcomes (69%)

2.       Physical therapy outcomes (59%)

3.       Physical activity outcomes (50%)

4.       Clinician skills outcomes (46%)

5.       Pain distraction outcomes (42%)

6.       Health education outcomes (42%)

7.       Disease self-management outcomes (37%)

Research shows that engaging whole body movements in combination with cognitive tasks leads to overall better outcomes. Interactive Metronome is a patented and unique training tool that challenges thinking and movement simultaneously, providing real-time millisecond feedback to help synchronize the body’s internal clock in just fifteen minutes a day, a few times a week.

The next time you want to play a game think about your brain. Spend a few minutes working on neurotiming and you will be pleasantly surprised at the results. There is always time for Call of Duty, your brain is calling now.

Read more in our blog on how improving neurotiming can help with adult ADHD, TBI and Alzheimer’s.

Remember, you may not be able to get younger, but your brain can!


Check out more on video games here…

Part I – Paystation: The Real Cost of Video Games

Part II – Video Games May Help Your Child

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