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Study shows multitasking video game helps improve brain function

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A group of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have spent the past four years conducting a study that shows playing multitaking video games could improve brain fuction, both in the game and in real world tasks, reports The New York Times.

In the game the researchers used, shown in the video above, players must drive straight down a road and identify certain signs while ignoring other ones. The researchers used electroencephalography — recording electrical activity along a person's scalp — to measure testing subjects' brain functions. Through this they found the brain's theta wave activity, which is associated with how well we pay attention, was similar to that of a young adult's.

After playing the game, test subjects between 60 and 80 years old outperformed younger players who had never previously played the game, as well as exhibited cognitive benefits in other, non-gaming tasks. These performance levels were constant for up to six months after testing had been completed.

According to Earl K. Miller, neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this research is a "very big deal," and shows "you can take older people who aren't functioning well and make them cognitively younger through this training."

But research leader Daphne Bavelier notes that this field of study is still vey new and that brain training could still produce long-lasting negative side effects.

"We know we can rewire the brain, but the challenge is how to do it properly," she said. "We're in the primitive age of brain training."