A slew of negatives plague video games -- Peter Pan Syndrome, hyper-violence, camping -- but their youthfulness could do just what Nintendo's Brain Age promised: improve elderly brain function. Over four years, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco had a group play a custom game (video of it in action is after the break) that tasks players to drive and identify road signs that appear while ignoring certain others, according to the New York Times. It's not quite Grand Theft Auto, but it proved how hard successfully multitasking becomes with age. However, after training with the game, the 60 to 80 year old test subjects stomped those a fraction of their age who had no prior exposure to it. What's more, this experience produced brain functionality benefits outside of the game.
This isn't a fluke, either. For proof, the scientists used electroencephalography to monitor the older subjects and found that while playing, the theta wave activity -- associated with attention -- in their prefrontal cortexes looked like that of younger adults. These findings may help scientists understand what areas of the brain "could and should" be manipulated to improve cognitive functions like memory. The study appears in today's edition of Nature and backs up similar research from May that also used a concentration-heavy game, and reported like results. Now if you'll pardon us, we have to show our parents that all those hours of our childhood weren't wasted.