ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Acupuncture May Not Help Hot Flashes
Ginger Can Ease Nausea From Chemotherapy Treatments
Pain-Relieving Powers of Acupuncture Unclear
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Studies Struggle to Gauge Glucosamine's Worth
Weight Loss Might Not Curb Knee Arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
CANCER
Wristbands May Lessen Nausea After Radiation
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
Omega-3 May Safely Treat Precancerous Bowel Polyps
CAREGIVING
New Guidelines for Treating Heart Failure
Health Tip: Benefitting From Adult Day Care
Diabetes Epidemic Now Poses Challenges for Nursing Homes
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Walk 100 Steps a Minute for 'Moderate' Exercise
Grapefruit-Heavy Diet Helped Spur Dangerous Clot
COSMETIC
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
DENTAL, ORAL
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
DIABETES
Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good
Study Shows Turmeric May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Drug May Not Help Diabetes-Related Eye Damage
DIET, NUTRITION
School Meals Need to Get Healthier
Added Sugars in Diet Threaten Heart Health
Eating Vegan or Raw-Vegan at Regular Restaurants
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Agent Orange Exposure Tied to Prostate Cancer Return
Short-Term Air Pollution Exposure May Damage DNA
Fish in U.S. Rivers Tainted With Common Medications
EYE CARE, VISION
Impotence Drugs Don't Harm Vision: Study
Brain Adapts to Age-Related Eye Disease
Magnetic Pulses to Brain Improve Lazy Eye in Adults
FITNESS
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
GENERAL HEALTH
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
Be Healthy, Spend Less
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Estrogen May Help Men's Hearts
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Exercise During Pregnancy Keeps Newborn Size Normal
Pool Chemicals Raise Kids Allergy, Asthma Risk
Safety Should Be Priority for Those Involved in Kids' Sports
MEN'S HEALTH
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
MENTAL HEALTH
Worries About Weight Are Tied to Teen Suicide Tries
Optimism May Boost Immune System
Positive Brain Changes Seen After Body-Mind Meditation
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
SENIORS
Tai Chi May Help Ward Off Knee Pain in Seniors
Seniors Cope With Sleep Loss Better Than Young Adults
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Iodine in Prenatal Vitamins Varies Widely
Flame-Retardant Chemical Linked to Conception Problems
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
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Video Gaming Just Might Fight Aging

Slaying orcs, charting military campaigns and gunning down bad guys might not sound like things seniors would be interested in pursuing for fun or exercise.

But they might want to start, some experts on aging say.

Research has found that off-the-shelf video games have the potential to help seniors age more gracefully, keeping their minds sharp and responsive through game play.

"There's a growing body of evidence that suggests playing video games actually can improve older adults' reflexes, processing speed, memory, attention skills and spatial abilities," said Jason Allaire, an associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and co-director of its Gains Through Gaming Lab.

With the advent of the Nintendo Wii, there's even the potential that video games could provide seniors with an outlet for physical exercise.

The Wii uses special controllers that require arm and body movements, and a number of games have been developed for the system specifically to provide an exercise program.

One study found that a Wii bowling game boosted the heart rate of players at a senior center in Pensacola, Fla., by about 40 percent. The game required that the players, who were in their 60s, 70s and 80s, hold the controller like a bowling ball and swing it to hit the pins in a virtual bowling alley.

"The Wii is a perfect vehicle because it is so easy," Allaire said. "It's in a lot of senior centers already. Older adults already tend to use it."

The potential of video games to keep minds sharp was highlighted in a 2008 study in which 40 people in their 60s and 70s were asked to play Rise of Nations, a real-time strategy game for computers that can be found in many stores that sell video games.

"We wanted to see whether we could take an off-the-shelf game and see fairly substantial changes," said Art Kramer, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who participated in the study.

Researchers measured the cognitive abilities of the players, none of whom had played any video games for at least two years. They then had half the group play Rise of Nations for nearly 24 hours total over an eight-week period.

Follow-up tests found that the seniors who played the strategy video game improved their performance on tests of memory, reasoning and cognition. There were particular improvements, Kramer said, in what's called executive control processes -- abilities such as planning, scheduling, dealing with ambiguity and multi-tasking.

"As we get older, we show declines in many of those abilities," he said. "As a result of doing certain things, we end up doing them less often. The kinds of processes that were exercised in the video game were some of the processes that older adults show deficits on."

Allaire is part of a team that has been given a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to do further research on whether and how video games can boost memory and thinking skills in the elderly.

The researchers plan to have seniors play a Wii game called Boom Blox that involves using weapons such as slingshots and cannonballs to demolish on-screen targets. The research will also involve World of Warcraft, an online role-playing game, Allaire said.

The plan is to assess three aspects of video game-playing that are thought to drive cognitive improvements in older people, Allaire said. They are:

* Attentional demand. "You have to pay attention to what's going on on the screen and react quickly," he said. "The more attention you expend on the video game, the better you get at focusing your attention."
* Novelty. "There's a lot of research that, when we're put in novel situations or are learning novel things, it activates our brains," he said.
* Social interaction. "People who stay more socially engaged have more cognitive function," he said. "We think people will interact with each other through collaborating and playing the game."

Though the research efforts show the possibilities of using video games to help aging adults, Allaire noted that no studies have shown a transfer of video-game skills to real-world activities.

"Is it going to help you remember to take your medications, or to remember what you wanted to buy at the store?" he asked. "That really hasn't been proven."

Kramer said that seniors should consider video games one of a number of things they can do to keep themselves sharp.

"I would not suggest that video games would be the only or even the best way to exercise those cognitive functions," he said, noting that physical exercise, social interaction and diet are already proven ways to promote mental abilities as you get older. "I would recommend they get out and ride a bike. I would recommend they learn a new language."

SOURCES: Jason Allaire, Ph.D., assistant professor, psychology, and co-director, Gains Through Gaming Lab, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C.; Art Kramer, Ph.D., professor, neuroscience and psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Ill.; presentation, American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting, May 27-30, 2009, Seattle Published on: January 22, 2010