March 20, 2009
The Daily Record
Larry Fiorino

Parents – don’t be so quick to get your kids to put down their video games. In fact, you might want to join them.

Computer gaming is being found to actually increase the functioning of your brain. Seniors (and their insurance companies) are looking to gaming to improve vision and reaction times.

Other doctors are using the same software to help children improve reading skills and for therapy for diseases such as cerebral palsy.

How can playing a computer game improve your brain? By starting with small challenges that are fun and continually increasing the challenge, all while making it fun, e.g., the “game part.”

Study results to be published in the April 4 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society are the first to show definitively that computerized brain exercises can improve memory and attention in older adults.

The study found that participants who trained on The Brain Fitness Program software from Posit Science more than doubled their processing speed, with an average increase of 131 percent and improvements in memory and an improvement in attention span equal to that of someone 10 years younger.

Participants reported significant improvements in everyday activities (such as remembering names or understanding conversations in noisy restaurants).

Allstate Insurance is now offering the game as a free trial to 100,000 Pennsylvania customers. Allstate expects its software exercises to reduce risky driving maneuvers by up to 40 percent and improve stopping distance by an average of 22 feet when traveling at 55 miles per hour. Due to their frailty, older drivers have higher rates of fatal crashes, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

State Farm is also getting into the act. State Farm customers in Alabama who are 75 and older can take a 20-minute cognitive-skill assessment to see if they qualify for discounts, and they also can sign up for a free driving-skills program.

The market is growing dramatically with spending at $225 million a year right now and expected to grow to $2 billion in 2015.

You can test your mental capability on the Web site by taking a free demo of one of their products called Jewel Diver.

I did the demo and it was fun. I can certainly see how a regular program of brain exercise would improve brain function. Have fun!