East Carolina University's Psychophysiology Lab recently published some promising findings from a study on the effect casual games can have on the cognitive abilities of older players. According to Gamasutra, the study, which has run for almost six months and counting, has measured certain mental functions of 40-some participants over the age of 50 as they've played various PopCap games in half-hour chunks over the duration of the study. Researchers have found that even this semi-regular play (like, really, who plays a PopCap game for just thirty minutes) has boosted participants' cognitive response times by 87 percent, in addition to increasing their executive functioning by a whopping 215 percent.

So, what does that mean? The group conducting the study explained these findings could prove casual games (and, in all likelihood, "so-called 'hardcore' video games") could constitute effective mental exercise for the elderly, or those who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer's. That's really great news, since our grandmother has probably played enough Zuma that she can now move things around with her mind.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.