The smartphone hangs every time my child downloads a game and I can’t stand the scene when my in-laws help my child play the game or teach a new one! This irritates me strongly and I do believe there are many others like me who wish their lives weren’t complicated by these electronic gadgets. Mobile games have robbed us of our precious time and it’s not only kids and young adults who are addicted to these game formats but even those above middle-age and the elderly population who spend a major portion of their leisure time playing different online games. Gaming has become a multi-billion industry and companies are reaping bigger benefits out of this as staying mentally sharp is the biggest concern for everyone, especially the ageing population. While it might be confusing as how games can promote cognitive skills there are ‘Brain Health’ companies that come up with interesting gaming concepts to trigger your grey matter in terms of memory, attention, processing speed, mental flexibility and problem solving.
Gaming as a Two-Way Switch
Games have been promoted not only for improving cognitive skills but also as a tool for identifying cognitive decline. If you take time and think for a second, gaming in fact needs your overall attention, demands the individual to be shrewd enough to overcome the hurdles that crop up and requires eye-hand coordination to succeed. Now, a new research by a group of researchers at the University of Kent shows that popular mobile games can now help physicians to serve as a means to detect cognitive decline which can even help in diagnosing conditions such as dementia.
The research team included 21 healthy participants who were asked to take up a paper-based cognitive assessment test and 10-minute gaming session that included playing Fruit Ninja, Candy Crush Saga and Tetris (the researchers consciously selected these games as they are simple, easy to learn and also involve intensive interactions using a series of gestures) over two separate periods separated by a fortnight. The researchers used certain aspects to study cognitive performance and this included pattern of tap, swipe and rotational gestures. The information on cognitive performance using these parameters was collected using sensors installed in the mobile phones. These sensors provided a detailed information on the participants’ ability to perform visuo-spatial and visual search tasks besides checking for their memory, mental flexibility and attention span.
The researchers were able to conclude that mobile games were indeed a great way to measure cognitive abilities or rather disabilities in an individual, especially those who are affected by conditions such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, traumatic brain injury, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive-disorder. Learn more about dementia and how it impacts the quality of life of the patient and those attending the patient by visiting the website www.firsteatright.com. The same study also shows that these games serve as a means to identify athletes affected by traumatic brain injuries such as boxers, rugby and football players. But in any case, it is crucial that the condition is detected at an early stage to offer effective treatment and prevention strategies. The main advantage of this strategy is that the individual is engaged in the assessment procedure, cooperates for regular tests and the test can also be customized to test for specific cognitive abilities. The researchers now are looking forward to design an algorithm that can carry out automatic monitoring of individuals’ cognitive performance while playing these games. So, maybe cognitive performance can also be added as a part of the annual routine healthy check-up package to understand your brain health.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.