Welcome everyone, we have a real treat for you today. I have asked a good friend of mine, Paula Dunbar. If she would like to contribute to our website. She agreed and provided us with a topic, Games To Improve Brain Function could not be at a better time. If you joined us last time. We presented details on PTSD and diabetes. As you can see if you sustain a major brain injury. How do you treat it? What must you do? Do you just live with it? We will be looking into that further in this post. I hope you gain a better understanding of another way to treat an injured brain. Take it away Paula.
Thank you Brian for all your help moving forward. Let’s look at games and how our brain functions.
Playing online games has been proclaimed to help with brain and memory. You might feel some lag in your brain from high or low blood sugar and want to do everything you can to help your brain. Diabetes also indicates a higher risk for mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Doing whatever you can to improve your life and your brain will equal a better quality of life. Everyone needs that right? That’s what it’s all about.
I know I have enjoyed online games for years. It’s fun! and you at least Feel like you’re thinking. Well you are, but does it promote brain function and memory? Let’s find out. I did some research on this subject. My sources are from Medical News Today (MNT), a traumatic brain injury website called LotsaHelpingHands and ScienceDaily.
After we talk about our research and what games do (or don’t do) for your brain, I’ll give some suggestions for games that might help you (and are pretty fun). Let’s explore this further.
Video games have sparked a lot of controversy over time . It seems people are very polarized in their view of whether people should play video games or if they are actually bad for you. Most of those are moral opinions and not backed by any kind of research. For instance, some people think that increase in violence in our world is because of violent video games. Real research shows that when looking at perpetrators, video games weren’t a factor at all.
It seems most of that recent research is on video games. An article in ScienceDaily (2017) found that our brain actually changes after playing video games. A portion of that is involved with attention and visuospatial skills was changed when researching people who have played online games for some time and also in people who went through a tutorial study. Other significant findings were that working memory and sustained attention were improved and lasted for 6 months after their study.
2-D Versus 3-D Video Games
A recent study done by neurobiologists at University of California-Irvine (UCI) found that 3-D video games might also improve formation of memories. They compared two groups, one playing 2-D games and one group playing 3-D games. Not only are 3-D games funner to look at but they also provide some additional spatial complexities. Those playing 3D games significantly improved their memory test scores by 12 percent.
Strategy video games are especially good for improving brain function among older adults and it’s claimed may provide protection against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Top players in PC strategy games (from pcgamer.com):
- Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 – Space battles
- Battletech – Mechanical warriors
- Northgard – Viking-themed strategic territory game
- Into the Breach – 3-D turned based strategy game
- Total War: Warhammer 2 – Fantasy massive campaigns
- XCOM 2/War of the Chosen – “A series of interesting decisions”
Wii and Console:
Nintendo came out with the Wii console in 2006 which was their first ‘controller’ which could detect movement in three dimensions and allows a player to truly interact and engage physically with a game. XBox and PlayStation then followed suit and came out with their own versions of player interactive games and consoles. This is excellent since it helps you move while playing and creates a truly 3-D playing experience. You can bowl, drive, golf, even dance. More you engage multiple senses in an activity, more you engage your brain (and memory).
Virtual Reality (VR)
Super interesting topic, right? In 2014, it was discovered that our brain actually functions like a GPS device (Lewis, 2014). Their discovery led to a 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine award. Our brains create a mental map of our environment from not only visual input but from sounds, smells and other sensory information. Virtual Reality(VR) really confuses Our brain since what we are seeing in VR is not at all what our physical self is experiencing. Research shows that brains of rats don’t have their same brain activity in VR as they do in their exact same situation in the real world. Their GPS cells fire in the real world and not in virtual reality. So while it’s entertaining, VR might not be an answer for improving brain function. It is said that scientists hope it is useful for people with brain injuries but not enough research has been done yet to really know for sure.
Real World Games and Cards
A benefit to ‘real world’ games is that it gives you another tactile way to interact with games, but also to interact with others. It is another example of Games To Improve Brain Function. LotsaHelpingHands (2019) helps victims of brain injuries. They talk about playing games as part of the recovery process, to get our brain working better. I guess that tells you that playing games is good for your brain.
- Sudoku – Apparently there are lots of versions of this puzzle game. They come in color Sudoku, alphabet Sudoku and of course, number Sudoku. These come in magazines from your local grocery or drug store and there are apps for your mobile device too. If one type of Sudoku is too hard, try another type.
- Card games – We played a Lot of cards when I was growing up. Those are some fond memories. There were holidays at a relatives home where we’d have 3 or 4 card tables set up around a house with everyone playing cards. It really does engage your brain. Some good games to start with are Memory, Go Fish, War and Rummy. Solitaire is another one noted that helps memory and brain function. More advanced players might like Hearts, Spades or Pitch.
I have been a member of Pogo.com for years. There are Many card games you can learn and play with others online. Most of the card games are in 2-D but it’s activity is still good for your brain. There are some advanced (as well as beginner) players there so beware of impatient people. lol. You can also play against their computer if you’d rather not play with real people. Not only card games but Pogo also has many other types of games. You can have a Free membership but there is a paid membership option for access to more games.
- Yahtzee – Super fun game for 2 or more players. Bring your math skills
- Puzzles – I don’t really have to tell you that puzzles work your brain and are good for cognitive health.
Memory Game Websites
Websites like Lumosity have sprung up and created games just to help people with their memory. Jury is still out on how effective these are for improving memory in long term. Lotsahelpinghands recommends Lumosity for helping with traumatic brain injury recovery while Nichols of MedicalNewsToday states that Florida State University postulated that an increase in the performance of our brain from brain training games has no scientific basis. There is a feature on Lumosity to compare your results with others. I’m not sure this is helpful, personally.
I have a link to a test on my website (https://mywellbrain.com) that just gives you a baseline and allows you to test it’s effect of different habits or supplements over time. It doesn’t say how your memory or brain function is, it just shows improvement or regression.
Other researchers found that memory skills improved by these brain training games are very specific skills, like remembering long strings of numbers. That doesn’t really crossover into memory of where you left your wallet. While they help in a few areas, they don’t help with overall brain function, according to Nichols (2017).
What is memory anyway? lets look into that a bit further. If you click the link I have provided. We can look into that together on a previous article I wrote. I think that will also bring more clarity into focus.
Playing video games can be addicting and Science Daily mentions that along with positive changes in game structure of ‘gamers’ brains, some people have similar structural changes in their neural reward system as people addicted to substances or other things. It’s called ‘Internet gaming disorder’. I would say you could assume that if a person has an addictive trait in their personality or chemistry, it can carry over into video games too.
Overall, it’s pretty positive that impact of games on the brain. Not all agree on internet gaming but research doesn’t lie. Research is showing positive physical changes in our brain when playing certain types of video games. 3-D games scored better for engaging more areas of cognitive skill. Real world games are thought of as the best but that might be because they’ve been around for centuries. Science is slow to embrace new avenues of treatment online. Interaction with others is a very positive aspect of real world games but you can also interact with others in online games. An even bigger world.
Engaging consoles like Wii, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 that allow you to interact physically with a game seem like my best option, but are quite expensive.
Brain training websites like Lumosity are great as long as you know it’s not the only method you should use if you’re trying to improve your brain function. Their results are a bit limited.
VR is an amazing experience but it confuses our brain. It might be counter-intuitive. I’m sure we’ll learn more about how this affects our brains as more research develops.
I hope you found this helpful. Be sure to leave any comments or questions below. We’d love to hear from you!
Thank you, Paula for that very compelling post on Games To Improve Brain Function. I think you did a wonderful job covering all areas of topic with this post. This was a wonderful experience today. As you can see Paula is an expert in her field when it comes to brain injury and illness. Be sure to head over to my website at diabetic-victory.com and read through other articles that may interest you.
As Paula had mentioned, we would love to hear any comments you may have and we will get back to you as time permits. Have a great day.
Paula Dunbar, author