What if, in addition to offering a fun way to enjoy our leisure time, video games could bring real benefits to our cognitive abilities? It’s the promise of a new musical rhythm game that can not only teach drums but also improve short-term memory.
In a study effects of the game, 47 adults aged 60 to 79 were divided into two groups: one playing a musical rhythm game (called Rhythmicity) and the other playing a normal word search game, for 20 minutes per day, 5 days a week for 8 weeks.
The difference between the two groups was clear: as players progressed through Rhythmicity, the way it targeted visual perception and selective attention had a training effect on short-term memory, as tested by a facial recognition exercise.
“As hypothesized, only the rhythm training group exhibited improvement in short-term memory during a facial recognition task, thus providing important evidence that musical rhythm training can benefit performance on a non-musical task,” the researchers write in their published article.
The rhythmicity was developed with the drummer mickey hart, once from the Grateful Dead, and used visual cues to train participants to play a beat on a tablet. The tempo, complexity, and precision needed were all changed as players progressed.
Part of what makes the game special is that it can adapt to the person playing it, changing the difficulty level to push the player to improve without making it so difficult that they’ll spoil the game. gaming experience.
The post-training analysis was done via electroencephalography (EEG) during a recognition task involving unfamiliar faces. The rhythmicity players were better at identifying faces after the eight-week course, and EEG readings showed increased activity in the superior parietal lobule – the region of the brain linked to sight-reading music and visual memory at short term.
“This enhanced memory at all was amazing,” says neuroscientist Theodore Zanto from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
“There is a very strong memory training component to this, and it has generalized to other forms of memory.”
The researchers behind the study have been busy in this field since 2013 when they developed a game called NeuroRacer – a game that has been shown to be able to improve diminished mental faculties and improve sustained attention and working memory in the elderly after only four weeks.
This was followed by a game called Body-Brain Trainer, which a recent study found is able to improve blood pressure, balance and attention in the elderly. In this case, heart rate data was constantly fed back to the software so the game could adapt to the fitness level of the participants.
Another game, the Virtual Reality Labyrinth which engages users in spatial orientation, demonstrated that it can improve long-term memory in the elderly after four weeks of training.
A decline in cognitive control often accompanies aging, but these games are proof that there are ways to maintain our mental sharpness.
“These games all have the same underlying adaptive algorithms and the same approach, but they use very, very different types of activity. And in each of them, we show that you can improve the cognitive abilities of this population” , says neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley from UCSF.
The research has been published in PNAS.