Next time somebody tells you you’re spending way too much time on your hidden object adventure games, show them this story. Researchers have confirmed that a brain-teasing game challenge now and then can actually help slow down mental decay associated with the aging process.

Iowa City University scientists came to this conclusion after studying the effects of crossword puzzles and a specifically designed computer game called Road Tour on a group of 681 subjects, all of them over 50. The catch is that Road Tour is not just your average computer game, it was developed precisely with the purpose of testing and improving mental processing abilities. The game tests and trains a wide range of skills, such as mental processing speed, memory, attention and peripheral vision.

Video Game Slows Down Mental Aging

The game requires players to quickly identify the type of vehicle shown at the center of the scene and match it with the corresponding symbol from among a series of signs arranged in surrounding circles. In order to advance to the next level, the player must get at least three out of four tries correct. The challenges become harder as the player advances, as every level adds more distractions and speeds up the process.

At the end of the five- to eight-week experiment, it was found that the subjects who played Road Tour had better cognitive skills than those who did crossword puzzles. Those who played the game for at least 10 hours were apparently able to delay the natural decline of their cognitive skills by up to three years. Those who played Road Tour for four extra hours every week were actually able to gain up to seven years of cognitive improvement. 

The Iowa University study clearly shows that it is not only possible, but alo not that difficult to improve cognitive functions in older adults. Extensive research has been and is still dedicated to establishing the benefits video games may have on players’ health, but this was the first study to bring conclusive evidence.

And even if Road Tour is not a traditional video game but rather a training system, scientists believe there is no reason why other cognitively complex games out there should not have the same effect and improve the mental aging process.

[Image via Time]