A whole new industry is emerging: gamification is promising us younger brains and dementia prevention. We tested gamification in the ICT4life project, where NETIS is a proud member.

My retired father is an avid lover of crosswords, but since I gave him my old iPad, he discovered a new way of keeping his 74 years old brain entertained: online card games. He plays one or two hours a day, aside from his usual walk and his part-time job as a driver. So, I can honestly say, he does everything in his power to keep himself young.

He is not the only one to use games to keep his brain young, and a whole new industry called gamification knows this. Apps and games for our mental health and well-being are popping up daily: some offer brain exercises for free, others require a subscription to keep the entertainment alive. Not only computer or tablet games but also smart TV-s offer us little puzzles, brain trainers and games. So, there is no excuse: we need to play to stay young.

There is a plethora of scientific data, that backs up this common belief and experience, that crosswords, puzzles, games can keep our mind fit and young, and also significantly lowers the risk of dementia. The latest study in this field was conducted by Dr. Karlene Ball, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Dr. Dan Roenker, of Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, and result were recently published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions.

In this study – that followed more than 2800 older adults for a decade – a brain training method known as the speed of process training reduced participants’ dementia by 29 percent. This kind of training involves a task that aims to improve the user’s visual attention – the speed and accuracy a person can identify and remember objects in front of them. In this particular study, researchers developed a game where the user is asked to spot an object, such a house, in center of their gaze while also identifying an object in their peripheral vision, such a dog. As the game advances user has less and less time to spot each object and more distractors are added to the screen. We use one speed of process training game in our innovation award nominated EU project, ICT4Life, a memory game, Find the Pairs, which is accessed via a SMART TV. The preliminary results suggest that this computer application can be used to assess the different areas of cognitive functions. You can read more about these result on the official ICT4Life website.

So please play, stay young, and prevent dementia!

Author: Eva Lajko