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Strategy Games Improve Cognitive Functions In Older Adults 64

Researchers at the University of Illinois have completed a study about using video games to stimulate cognitive function in adults over 60 years old. The scientists selected a strategy game — because of its scope and the variety of different tasks involved — and trained a group of subjects on how to play. The gamers then scored better than a control group on a number of cognitive tests. Quoting: "The tests included measures of their ability to switch between tasks, their short-term visual memory, their reasoning skills and their working memory, which is the ability to hold two or more pieces of information in memory and use the information as needed. There were also tests of the subjects' verbal recall, their ability to inhibit certain responses and their ability to identify an object that had been rotated to a greater or lesser degree from its original position. The researchers found that training on the video game did improve the participants' performance on a number of these tests. As a group, the gamers became significantly better — and faster — at switching between tasks compared with the comparison group. Their working memory, as reflected in the tests, also was significantly improved. Their reasoning ability was enhanced. To a lesser extent, their short-term memory of visual cues was better than that of their peers, as was their ability to identify rotated objects."
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Strategy Games Improve Cognitive Functions In Older Adults

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  • Starcraft (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 15, 2008 @06:29AM (#26118121)

    Yay. Now I can beat my Grandmother and Grandfather at Starcarft without feeling bad about it.

    More seriously, I wonder if board games like Risk would have the same effect...

    • Re:Starcraft (Score:4, Insightful)

      by montyzooooma ( 853414 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @06:39AM (#26118179)
      They used Rise of Nations for the experiment. Good choice IMO. Asking senior citizens to play Starcraft might have been a step too far.
      • Asking senior citizens to play Starcraft might have been a step too far.

        What could possibly go wrong?

        (I'd love to zergling-rush my GrandMother. "Eat my creep, Grandma!")

        • by routerl ( 976394 )
        • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

          by Zerth ( 26112 )

          (I'd love to zergling-rush my GrandMother. "Eat my creep, Grandma!")

          That's what Mister Stevenson said last week your grandmother. I wouldn't hae thought he had it in him at that age, but he had photos.

          God, he's a dirty old man, I am never delivering Meals-on-Wheels to his house again after seeing what he did to her with the Vegetable Medley.

      • by aliquis ( 678370 )

        Looks sweet, sadly no OS X version though I guess it runs just fine in Crossover Office or something such. There are no newer versions? Is it a replacement for Age of Empires or a unique title on it's own? I need to try it out.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      • Yeah right. I have been kicking whippersnapper butt online ever since the game came out.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by tnk1 ( 899206 )


        "Oh my goodness, I've sent a zergling rush your way, dear. But don't be too upset, I've set out milk and cookies for you in the kitchen!"


        "EAT CARRIERS YOU #%^&^$#%!!! I'll teach you damned NIPS to attack MY VILLAGE!!!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gmuslera ( 3436 )
      Probably learning anything new with so much points that must be considered (military, economy, population, etc) should do the work. Risk is too much simpler than Rise of the Nations to translate this study findings in all those areas, but probably Civilization would be close enough.

      But the finding that amazed me more is about the flexibility that still have the brain at 60+ of age, and the changes that you can still get at that age with 40 hrs of the right activity..
      • Re:Starcraft (Score:5, Insightful)

        by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @07:34AM (#26118477) Journal

        This is exactly what I was wondering - what is the control group? Is it people learning something else, e.g. a language, chess, or is it people doing nothing or watching tv? I mean going for a walk improves your fitness, but is it as good as, say, rowing? Relative comparisons - that's what we need.
        • by SupremoMan ( 912191 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @07:59AM (#26118619)

          This is exactly what I was wondering - what is the control group?

          That's when you hit Ctrl+Number. Then you can use the number key to quickly select all the units in the Control group!

        • The article has the control group also playing the same game. The difference is that group is not 'trained.' When I started to play Warcraft I thought it would be a great way to train younger kids.. Balencing resources between peon verses fighter and what task to assign each to maximize resource use. The fact that most things require all three resources. "Dog Drool!"
      • Risk and Civilization both probably wouldn't be as useful due to the fact that they're both turn based, allowing a large scale of time for some people to react. What would take one person five seconds to analyze and react to could take another twenty, and there would be no way of measuring a person's ability to react to new situations in a timely manner by looking at end of game results.

        In an RTS, you're forced to react to problems quickly, making your mind more apt at reacting with haste and, hopefully, wi

    • They are called bored games for a reason
  • Exercise (Score:4, Funny)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Monday December 15, 2008 @06:30AM (#26118135) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, I believe the concept you're after is "Use It Or Lose It"

    • You're assuming that the control group didn't exercise their brains at all (by playing checkers, for instance).
    • Yeah, I believe the concept you're after is "Use It Or Lose It"

      Great, that's just the argument I use to justify my furious mastur... I mean, complusive chess playing.

    • Yeah, I believe the concept you're after is "Use It Or Lose It"

      Dude, this is Slashdot. If that were true, the majority of us would be women by now ;)

  • by 800DeadCCs ( 996359 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @06:37AM (#26118161)

    Command and conquer: Get off my damned lawn edition
    Red alert: Yuri remembers the great war... over and over and over agian
    and a Vega strike mod: Are those my pills?

    • command&conquer isn't a strategy game, it is tactics, operational level at most.

      • Umm, no, that's what the S in RTS stands for. Tactics is a synonym for strategies.

        • Re:New for 2009! (Score:5, Informative)

          by Shinobi ( 19308 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @09:35AM (#26119145)

          Tactics is certainly not a synonym for strategy.

          Tactics is the art of how to deploy your forces to achieve an objective, for example on platoon level how to place your squads, if you do bounding overwatch or travelling overwatch while advancing etc.

          Strategy is 95% the shuffling of material, troops and intel so the tacticians can do their job. I.e, logistics. The remaining 5% is trying to figure out where the enemy is, where he'll go, and how you can disrupt that by where you want your forces. Which is also logistics.

          • by ZygnuX ( 1365897 )
            Strategy is the "Grand Plan". A strategy is a certain abstract or not abstract paradigm you wish to apply to a certain problem: "Divide and Conquer", "Shock and Awe", etc.. The tactics are some of the particular steps you take to achieve that goal.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            tactics is what S.W.A.T. teams and Special Forces (as well as normal front line soldiers) are trained in. it concerns the maneuvering of individual units on the battlefield--things like enfilade/defilade, spec fire, suppressive fire, leapfrogging, flanking, squad formation/movement/positioning, etc.

            strategy is the planning and execution of a war/contest between entire armies/nations. it's the decision-making handled by the Generals and Pentagon officials rather than the direct combatants on the battlefield.

            • It is so refreshing to see all these people that recognize that tactics and strategy, while related, are most definitely NOT the same thing.

              And yes, I still think C&C, Starcraft and the rest of the genre should be referred to as Real Time Tactics not Real Time Strategy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        That's why you suck at it.

        C&C is in FACT a Strategy game. Those that dont think it is is owned within minutes in the game. There are lots of strategy moves you can do to make the game quite a bit easier or have a different outcome. Lots of players do the click and react and use a little bit of tactics.

        There is a crapload of strategy in it.

        SAying that C&C or any game like it is not strategy is like saying that Chess is a simple tactics game.

        • Ask a grandmaster what chess is before claiming that it's strategy.
          • At the Grandmaster level, Chess is basically memorization with knowing how to rook-and-pawn your opponent into checkmate.

            Fortunately for the rest of us mere mortals, Chess still contains both tactics (properly exploiting the current position) and strategy (manipulating material to develop a position from which you maintain the tactical upper hand).

      • There is one point on the GDI map where you're allowed to make a real choice about which country your forces move to, so there is a smidgen of strategy.
  • Breaking news! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mystery00 ( 1100379 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @07:19AM (#26118381)

    Using the brain, improves the brain!

    More at 11.

  • by LeadLine ( 1278328 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @07:55AM (#26118591)

    I'd be more interested in the differences between people who have been playing for a long time (10 years) and those who have never (or rarely) pick up a game.

    • I'd be more interested in the differences between people who have been playing for a long time (10 years) and those who have never (or rarely) pick up a game.

      Those that play a lot complain of periodic pain in their wrists :)

  • by Spazztastic ( 814296 ) <spazztastic@gmai ... minus herbivore> on Monday December 15, 2008 @07:56AM (#26118595)
    And in other news, Grand Theft Auto IV online game play has been plagued in the recent weeks by new players who sit in the left lane with their blinker on for 30 miles, require 5 tries to parallel park, and request you to repeat your sentences because they are hard of hearing. More at 10.
  • If the control group was looking at soap reruns while thes guys were playing Rise of Nations, then I don't see what's surprising! TFA doesn't say . . .

  • Brain Workshop is an implementation of the Dual N-back exercise which trains your short-term memory; a psychological study has shown that doing it increases your intelligence.

    See [] for more.

    In South Korea, training your brain with Starcraft is for old people... ;)

    • Seems a little too easy to just remember a position and a letter two step backwards? 3 or 4 and the whole sequence and we might be starting to demand something.

      • Well then it's a good thing Brain Workshop lets you extend it as far back as you want. One of the major challenges on the forums seems to be reaching dual9back matching both positions and letters/sounds. You can also choose morse code or specific piano keys for your sounds if you want an even more cerebral experience.
  • by biscuitlover ( 1306893 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @08:43AM (#26118827)

    It's humiliating enough getting completely slaughtered by someone half your age playing Supreme Commmander online without having to worry about someone twice your age doing the same.

  • My Experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by scubamage ( 727538 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @10:04AM (#26119377)
    My grandmother and grand father both suffered from alzheimer's before they died, so I'm familiar with the normal progression it makes (at least so far as I've experienced it). When my father was diagnosed with alzheimer's, my mother bought him a nintendo DS, and all of the brain age games. She got him a Wii for big brain academy. His episodes of forgetfulness seem to have halted, or at least slowed down, since he began playing the games regularly (my mother hawks over him to make sure he plays his games for the day). I know I can't really infer anything from my experiences, especially since I haven't gathered any data outside of my observations, but for what its worth my experiences support the findings of this study. I think this is a poorly explored area which really could yield some benefits.
    • If I had mod points I'd mod you up. That's something I'd like to see explored. I've got extended family that have had to deal with Alzheimer's and dementia in the past and if working out the brain muscle can reduce the effects in any significant way, or at least offer hope, then I'd be all in.

  • It's well-established that older people (yes, even into their 60's and 70's) are smarter than younger people. Why the focus on 60 and up? Are younger people unable to learn from strategy games? I think this post is a form of ageism in disguise: another presentation of the meme "Older people are dumbasses." basically.
    • Older people may be more knowledgeable, but as you get up there senility comes into play. Keeping the mind active helps stave senility off, just how keeping the body active helps keep it from decaying. TFA is basically just trying to prove that strategy games are included in that whole keeping the mind active thing.
    • RTFA:

      Kramer and his colleagues wanted to know whether a more integrated training approach could go beyond the training environment to enhance the cognitive skills used in everyday life. Specifically, the researchers wondered whether interactive video games might benefit those cognitive functions that decline most with age.

      "Older people tend to fare less well on things that are called executive control processes," Kramer said. "These include things like scheduling, planning, working memory, multitasking and

  • We humans have a funny way of demonizing pleasure and play, and this plays a role in many people's unfavorable (and skeptical) view of video games. It's not "real work."

    But it is a form of exercise - not physical, like sport games - but mental. RTS games in particular demand:

    - multitasking,
    - concentration and short term memory,
    - comprehensive learning (new units, tactics, interfaces, etc),
    - some blend of both instinctive and congnitive responses (ie.

    This exercises the mind and aids decisiveness, pat

  • Not limited to games (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Khopesh ( 112447 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:36PM (#26122433) Homepage Journal

    Any kind of concept that requires creating new pathways in the brain through critical thinking will have this result.

    Other studies have concluded that regularly playing crossword puzzles [] is good for staving off (and even reversing!) dementia/Alzheimer's. This helps significantly more if the person didn't play them regularly beforehand because it is a new routine. Routines are good, but the conclusion all of these related studies is finding (whether they realize it or not) is:

    The aging brain needs constant stimulation and new intellectual problems to tackle. Strategy games, crossword puzzles, sudoku, and tons of other items fulfill this. Ginkgo and other pills/remedies do not.

    (Yeah, yeah; [citation needed] ... this comes from a recent discussion with a neuroscientist, who would probably cite research papers that aren't linkable online.)

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"