Video games can be good for your health - and your memory

Stephen Chapman's picture
by Stephen Chapman

A new study from the University of Manchester says that active gaming is good for brain health and memory.

The emphasis here is on “active”, that is systems that use physical activity for gaming, such as the Wii or Xbox Kinect.

Researchers aggregated data from 17 clinical trials, examining the effects of active gaming on cognitive functioning across 926 people.

“As people age, their brain functioning, such as memory, concentration and spatial awareness naturally decline,” explained report co-author Joseph Firth.

“Various neurological conditions such Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia can also impede people’s cognitive functioning and reduce their ability to function day to day.

“Recently, there has been much interest in using active video games in the rehabilitation of these conditions, and to promote healthy ageing.

“So we were fascinated to learn that the available evidence shows how these sort of games can significantly improve overall cognitive functioning, and is particularly beneficial for attention, executive functioning and visuospatial abilities.

“Physically-active video games have, according to our research, greater impact on brain functioning than regular physical activity alone – suggesting that their benefits are more than just moving around.”

The report is published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, and was a collaboration between The University of Manchester, King’s College London, KU Leuven and ETH Zurich.

“Our research shows the potential of active video games that can be used independently at home and remotely supervised by therapists,” added co-author, Dr Emma Stanmore.

“The brain benefits may be because these activities are physically demanding, while also requiring concentration and cognitive effort, resulting in positive effects for body and brain.

“We hope this research will encourage the NHS and social services to take up active gaming as part of their support packages-  as some are already starting to do.”

The trial showed that MIRA games improved balance, pain and fear of falling after 12 weeks’ use.

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