Video games often get a bad rap for isolating young people. However, they might be an effective treatment for older adults with depression. Scientists from several universities, including the University of Connecticut, are investigating.
Kevin Manning with the University of Connecticut says scientists have been interested for more than a decade in how video games can be used to strengthen cognitive function in older adults – brain training. Manning and his team think it can be used to improve mood, too.
“The idea for that is, if you stimulate their prefrontal cortex through brain games, through training and a cognitive ability called executive functioning, that might actually improve their depression.”
We’re not talking popular franchises like Fortnite here, though. Manning says participants play games specifically designed to strengthen brain function.
“Meaning, I’m gonna ask you whenever you see a ball flash green, to press it, but don’t press the ball if you see it turn red. So practicing those abilities again and again are thought to potentially generate new pathways in the brain.”
Scientists then use MRIs to track the changes in participants’ brains as they play.
“One potential benefit of this study is, can we actually show increased activation in the prefrontal lobes in older adults with major depression?”
Manning and his team have seen promising results through a small study of adults at UConn. Next, they’ll work with researchers at the University of Utah on a clinical trial on a larger scale.