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Playing 30 Minutes of Video Games Helps Prevent Dementia Among Elderly

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Dementia, one of the most devastating and often-overlooked neurological conditions today, affects millions of individuals worldwide, with Alzheimer's disease being the most common form. Unfortunately, many people consider dementia as an inevitable part of aging. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States alone has 5.8 million individuals suffering from this condition. However, groundbreaking studies reveal that dementia's staggering amount could soon be reduced through a convenient approach.

Among the studies, one particular investigation suggests a simple but surprising solution that could help fight the effects of dementia. Playing video games for 30 minutes a day has been found to be an effective anti-dementia activity that could significantly reduce the risks of developing this neurological illness. The best part is that it could work even for the older adult population, who are at higher risk of dementia.

The study titled "Enriching hippocampal memory function in older adults through video games" was published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research. The research team believes that playing video games with more advanced graphics, such as Super Mario World, could effectively resist the brain's accumulation of dementia-related impacts.

The research on this new anti-dementia approach was made possible through the participation of individuals aged 60 to 80 years. In the four-week experiment, the participants were required to play video games for about 30 to 45 minutes a day. The study showed that playing Super Mario World in an immersive 3D environment led to a significant improvement in cognition and memory skills compared to playing two-dimensional and flat games like Angry Birds and Solitaire.

The authors of the study suggest that the immersive 3D environment from the video games helps the older age group to become more active and eventually gain improvements in their cognition. This type of activity could also benefit other age groups, but it is unquestionably helpful to those who are homebound or have signs of onset dementia development.

The study "Playing Super Mario 64 increases hippocampal grey matter in older adults," published in the journal PLOS ONE, is just one of the many initial studies that have presented the possibility of people gaining anti-dementia benefits from playing video games. With these promising findings, playing video games could soon become an effective and convenient method to prevent and reduce the risks of dementia.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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