This brain builder is so good that we are quoting the title as published in a prestigious scientific journal: “Playing Super Mario 64 increases hippocampal grey matter in older adults.” It seems that some researchers from Montreal and St. John’s Newfoundland have nothing better to do than play video games. Well, not exactly. Gregory L. West, PhD and Benjamin Rich Zendel PhD, put together a research team to see if the brains of older adults would benefit from playing video games and, if so, exactly how.
The team from the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial University of Newfoundland and from the Centre de Researche en Neurologie et Cognition at the University of Montreal, recruited 33 adults from ages 55 to 75. They used the standard test method with a control group and subject groups. The control group continued their normal activities. A second group took self-directed piano lessons (as we’ve covered before, research shows notable brain growth from learning to play a musical instrument). The third group played Super Mario 64.
Guess what happened?
· Both the new musicians and the gamers had improvements in the cerebellum. The cerebellum is a region of the brain responsible for fine motor and muscle control, balance, coordination and posture.
· The music students improved their dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). The DLPFC seems have connections to most other brain regions, and is also involved in memory, but also attention, and noticing when a situation has changed.
· The video-playing group was the only one that experienced hippocampus growth. If you follow this blog or the sister blog at www.BigBrain.Place you’ve seen the term hippocampus enough to know that it plays a fundamental role memory building.
· The control group, sadly, went measurably downhill.
The researchers hypothesize that Super Mario success depends upon building a three-dimensional mental map, which taxes the brain sufficiently to drive neuron growth. But note the benefit from learning a musical instrument as well. Why not do both? For those of you who want to get deep into the science, here is a link to the research.
Shameless plugs and more
Our window for shipping for Christmas delivery has passed. But given how often the theme of exercise being a foundation of brain health recurs in research, you might just want to get one of our cool, lightweight, travel-friendly exercise bands and straps kit
for that New Year’s resolution. Or treat yourself to a brain-challenging puzzle