ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Pain-Relieving Powers of Acupuncture Unclear
38% of U.S. Adults Use Alternative Treatments
Massage Therapy Helps Those With Advanced Cancer
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Tips to Ease an Aching Back
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Drinking Cuts Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
CANCER
Low Vitamin D Levels May Initiate Cancer Development
Family History Key Player in Brain Cancer Risk
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
CAREGIVING
Stressed Health Care Workers Battle 'Compassion Fatigue'
Medication Errors Could Be Cut: Experts
Organ Donation Policies Vary Among Children's Hospitals
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
Grapefruit-Heavy Diet Helped Spur Dangerous Clot
COSMETIC
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Periodontal Disease Impacts Whole Health
DIABETES
Poor Blood Sugar Control After Heart Surgery Impacts Outcomes
Saliva Test Could Monitor Type 2 Diabetes
Lifestyle Factors Tied to Older Adults' Diabetes Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
Marinades Help Keep Grilled Meat Safe
Fasting on Alternate Days May Make Dieting Easier
Eating Less May Slow Aging Process
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Greener Neighborhoods Mean Slimmer Children
Traffic Seems to Make Kids' Asthma Worse
Freckles, Moles May Indicate Risk for Eye Cancer
EYE CARE, VISION
Don't Lose Sight of Halloween Safety
Glaucoma Treatment Can Prevent Blindness
Guard Kids' Eyes Against Long-Term Sun Damage
FITNESS
Exercise Keeps the Brain Young
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
Weak Muscles May Cause 'Runner's Knee'
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
GENERAL HEALTH
New Methods Could Speed Production of Flu Vaccines
Good Sleepers More Likely to Eat Right
Meat Additives May Be Dangerous for Kidney Patients
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Fish Oil Supplements Help With Heart Failure
Too Much Red Meat May Shorten Life Span
Dark Chocolate May Lower Stroke Risk
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Family Medicine Cabinet Top Source Of Kid's Poisonings
Combo Treatment Eases Wheezing in Babies
Winter's Bitter Cold Poses Health Dangers
MEN'S HEALTH
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Keeping a Healthy Holiday Balance
Music Soothes Anxiety as Well as Massage Does
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Expectant Mom's Exercise Keeps Newborn's Birth Weight Down
SENIORS
Life Expectancy in U.S. Hits New High
Laughter Can Stimulate a Dull Appetite
Money May Matter, Health-Wise, in Old Age
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Green Tea May Help Treat Uterine Fibroids
Vitamin D Good for Breast Cancer Patients
Caffeine in Pregnancy Associated With Low Birth Weight Risk
Add your Article

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