Montreal - New challenges could help seniors stay mentally fit. 3D computer games seem particularly suitable. Researchers from Canada had older people play "Super Mario 64" and found an increase in gray matter in the hippocampus. In addition, the short-term memory improved within half year. The results were published in Plos One (2017; doi:).
In the two control groups, however, no significant increase in gray matter in the hippocampus was found. 33 people between the ages of 55 and 75 took part in the study, which the researchers divided into three groups: The first group played Super Mario 64 for six months, in which character in 3D world has to collect stars to get princess Find. The participants had never played 3D computer games before and now did so for half an hour five days week. A second group should practice the piano on the computer over six months. Like the Super Mario group, these participants had no previous experience either. A third control group was given no tasks.
The researchers led by Greg West from the University of Montreal recorded all participants at the beginning the mass of gray matter in three areas of the brain and carried out memory test.
In the case of the Super Mario players, in addition to the hippocampus, structures in brain region that is responsible for movement and balance also improved. The pianists had apparently also trained in this area. The piano players alone also saw improvements in an area that is important for planning and decision-making.
The good news is that we can reverse such effects and increase the volume again if we do something Learning something new. Sylvie Belleville, University of Montreal
In the comparison group, which did not learn anything new, the amount of gray matter decreased in all brain areas tested. "The good news is that if we learn something new, we can reverse such effects and increase the volume again," explains co-author Sylvie Belleville.
The hippocampus is brain region, the new one Stores impressions as memories and combines spatial information to form kind of inner map. The researchers assume that the players created exactly such inner cards when playing the 3D game. More gray matter in certain brain areas could be related to higher intelligence. However, researchers associate degradation in the hippocampus with dementia.
Computer games make sense for prevention in seniors who are not very mobile
Hans Förstl from the Clinic and Polyclinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the Technical University of Munich assumes that it could make sense to use computer games to take preventive action against diseases such as dementia. Seniors in particular, who are less mobile and therefore move in the same rooms over and over again, barely exercised part of the hippocampus.
Förstl sees social disadvantages, such as those warned against young people, with moderate playing time in old age less relevant. First, however, it has to be found out how long the effects observed in the study last and whether they can actually delay or even prevent dementia.
Deutsches Ärzteblatt print
< / b>
The Canadian researchers explain that it could be useful to 3D Developing computer games specifically for seniors. Since some participants dropped out in the Super Mario group, they suspect the game might be too difficult for the inexperienced. But it could also be that the attitude towards computer games in this generation is fundamentally too negative, according to the researchers.
The study is based on the findings of the so-called taxi driver study, which was found few years ago became for London taxi drivers to exercise their hippocampus by creating inner maps of London to prepare for driver exams. Recent studies have already shown that 3D computer games have positive effect on certain brain structures in young people.