In the game, which was developed by the UCSF researchers, participants race a car around a winding track while a variety of road signs pop up. Drivers are instructed to keep an eye out for a specific type of sign, while ignoring all the rest, and to press a button whenever that particular sign appears.
The need to switch rapidly from driving to responding to the signs - i.e. multitasking - generates interference in the brain that undermines performance. The researchers found that this interference increases dramatically across the adult lifespan.
But after receiving just 12 hours of training on the game, spread over a month, the 60- to 85-year-old study participants improved their performance until it surpassed that of 20-somethings who played the game for the first time.
The study by Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD, UCSF associate professor of neurology, physiology and psychiatry and director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center, found that the training also improved the participants' performance in two other important cognitive areas: working memory and sustained attention. And participants maintained their skills at the video games six months after the training had ended.
The researchers also found that the training-induced changes in this neural network predicted how well participants would do on a different test, called the Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA), which measures sustained attention.
The study is published in the journal Nature.
--ANI (Posted on 05-09-2013)