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Playing video games could help to stave off dementia

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Recent studies have suggested that playing video games for regular, short periods could actually have a significant effect on holding off the development of neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

Whenever we hear about video games, they’re sometimes viewed in a negative light with concerns about anti-social effects on younger people being particularly common. However, there are various mental health benefits that can come from playing certain types of games, helping to keep brains active and boosting levels of grey matter.

Puzzles and logic games are often challenging enough to keep the mind engaged without becoming frustrated. Traditional brain training exercises – like Sudoku and wordsearches – have recently been replicated as video games. Meanwhile, long-standing video game puzzles like Tetris can develop quick-thinking and accurate hand-eye coordination.

Improving grey matter

The area of the brain most influenced by these interactive games is the hippocampus – the component often associated with memory, emotion and spatial awareness. As grey matter in the hippocampus naturally diminishes over time, conditions like dementia are increasingly likely to develop amongst older people.

Previous neurological studies on young adults have indicated that the mental stimulation from playing video games actually improves grey matter growth. This has led to research and studies around the world hoping to establish whether similar engagement with these games could boost grey matter in older brains and stave off the development of dementia.

Regular cognitive exercise

One UK study saw positive results after more than 900 people played games for around 15 minutes a day, 3 times a week. Elsewhere, researchers at the University of Montreal focused on games with three-dimensional environments. Both spatial awareness and short-term memory improved significantly when playing these games, as they require the player to create mental maps of their surroundings.

There’s often a worry amongst older people that video games are difficult to understand. However, a lot of modern games are specifically created with accessibility in mind. This allows wider audiences to at least give them a go, offering the potential to keep more people mentally active and prolong the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Plus, they’re often quite fun as well!