Video games are being used in a new research study conducted at Memorial University to help people struggling with dementia improve function.
Dr. Benjamin Zendel is a Canada Research Chair in Aging and Auditory Neuroscience at Memorial University.
He told Paddy Daly on the VOCM Morning Show that the research stemmed initially from the effect of music training on hearing abilities in older adults.
He says there’s a lot of evidence that shows that music training helps in better understanding of speech in noisy environments. Dr. Zendel says they tried to set up the study like a drug trial with a placebo, which is where the video games came in.
Zendel collaborated with Dr. Gregory West of the Université de Montréal who is an expert in visual processing who works with younger adults.
As it turns out, they found that video game training also has some benefits, and West used the music group as a placebo for his research. They found that video game playing saw benefits in memory and visual/spatial processing.
He says video games enlarge the hippocampus, which is important for memory. They chose Super Mario 64 which he describes as a spatially complicated game which seemed to help in the way in which the brain learns how to navigate in an environment and improved the ability of the eyes to track information in space.
Dr. Zendel says they asked subjects to play for about a half hour a day, five days a week for six months and already it started to show benefits. He says games with 3D navigation were key in their study.
Listen to Dr. Zendel speak with Paddy Daly on the VOCM Morning Show below: