Research Demonstrating Playing Super Mario Can Improve The Functions Of The Brain In The Elderly


In a study with 33 participants aged 55 to 75 years old, it was observed that the brain’s executive functions improved in the elderly playing Super Mario 64. The research is thought to be important for the preservation of the cognitive skills of the aging population.

As life expectancy increases and people live longer, the elderly population tends to increase in all countries. As the elderly population increases, the number of people whose mental and cognitive skills are missing starts to increase. For this reason, scientists are conducting a lot of new research to help the elderly population live their aging healthier.

A new study published in Experimental Brain Research is aimed at this. The research examines how playing 3D platform games can improve the executive functions of the brain in older adults. Executive functions consist of cognitive processes that regulate goal-oriented behaviors. These include processes such as attention control, limited ability to know, and working memory.

Playing Super Mario may be developing executive functions
When all these processes are used together, higher level cognitive functions such as reasoning and problem solving are provided. As people age, these abilities begin to decrease, and this is accompanied by a decrease in gray matter in the relevant areas of the brain.

In the research, scientists tested the effect of playing 3D video games on a task against twitching. This task tests the ability of participants to completely ignore a stimulus (prevent reflexive twitching) and perform a twitch or sudden eye movement in the opposite direction. Low performance is known to be related to reduced executive functions, and it points to loss in prohibitive control, one of the key processes in gathering attention.

Noting that in games such as Super Mario 64, players need to avoid a distraction (such as ignoring coins to avoid enemies), the researchers established the hypothesis that it would be associated with an increase in gray matter in anti-twitch test scores and frontal eye areas (FEF). FEF is also known as the area of ​​the brain responsible for managing the movements of our eyes.

33 participants, aged between 55 and 75, were divided into three groups. While the first group was trained with Super Mario 65, the second group received piano training. Nothing was given to the third group. Looking at the test results, it was observed that there was an increase in right FEF in the first group of participants, with significant improvements in preventing reflexive twitches and confirming the predictions.

The results of the study show that trainings with 3D platform games can play a role in the development of frontal blocker processes. However, as one of the limitations of the study and one of the obstacles to its implementation in real life, the video game group has experienced multiple drop-outs. Researchers attribute this to the difficulty of the game.