Can Video Games Improve Memory and Prevent Cognitive Decay?

Written by Philip Hargrove

The risk of reduced cognitive function and poor memory increases as one ages. Often, the culprit behind this is the development of neurodegenerative disease (e.g., dementia).

Regular physical activity was long viewed as the primary form of prevention of these conditions. However, recent research suggests that mental exercise is just as important.

Playing video games has shown potential in slowing or preventing cognitive decline. Ever since this discovery, computer, smartphone, and tablet-based games have been gaining popularity with the senior demographic.

· The impact of aging on brain function

The aging process is inextricably linked with some mental decline. As we age, the numbers of neural synapses in the brain decrease. The latter is imperative to cognitive function and memory.

Also, neuro-degenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, are more prevalent with the elderly. These diseases may cause debilitating mental decline among seniors.

The good news is that lifestyle changes and adjustments can combat some of the cognitive decline. Getting enough sleep, drinking less alcohol, and staying physically active are a few examples.

Aside from this, stimulating the mind is of paramount importance too. Some beneficial mental challenges include learning a new language or a skill, pursuing education, and playing some types of video games.

· Studies Reach Various Conclusions

Several prominent universities have researched the relationship between video games and cognitive function in the past few years. The conclusions vary, but overall, it seems that they are in favor of games.

A Canadian study done by the University of Montreal recruited 33 individuals aged 55 to 75. The test group was then separated into three smaller groups.

One group was asked to play Super Mario 64 five days a week, another to practice piano, and the last one wasn’t given any task. After six months, the participants underwent an MRI scan.

The researchers concluded that only the group participants who played Super Mario had an increase in grey matter volume. Also, they reported improvements in their short-term memory.

It’s vital to point out that Super Mario 64 is a 3D game. When playing it, the brain creates a mental representation of the map that it’s exploring in the game. This kind of stimulation increases functional activity as well as grey matter in the hippocampus.

A systematic study from 2012 suggests that video games enhance reaction time, processing speed, and overall cognition in older adults (55 years old on average).

The improvements of all three mentioned parameters were consistent across most of the reviewed studies. However, the results on two other tested parameters – memory and executive function – varied. In other words, older adults who played games didn’t experience significant improvements in these two aspects of cognition.

This implies that video games may not be effective in enhancing memory. In the end, this systematic study concluded that more research needs to be done on the subject.

· Games that yield the most benefits

According to the Entertainment Software Association, 25% of people over 50 regularly play video games. And yes, the percentage is on the rise.

As video games are becoming increasingly popular among the older adult population, the market is getting flooded with new releases. This oversupply makes it challenging to decide which games to go for.

You don’t want to play just any game, but those that produce the most cognitive benefits.

Here are a few guidelines on what to look for:

· Games that teach you new information

Our brain’s storage capacity is practically unlimited. Learning new information can strengthen and expand the existing neural pathways.

If you’re a history buff, look for a game that can further enrich your knowledge. There are even games that can teach you a language or a skill like programming.

Of course, you can indulge in “brain resting” classics like Solitaire or puzzles, but don’t make them the bulk of your playing time.

· 3D games

As explained previously, video games with 3D graphics challenge the brain in a beneficial way. Think of it as exploring new territory and thus acquiring new information.

World of Warcraft, a popular multiplayer online game, has been said to boost cognitive ability. This discovery was made in 2012 by researchers from North Carolina University.

The game didn’t help all seniors who participated in the study, though. It only helped those who performed poorly on cognitive ability tests before playing it.

· Consoles that make you move your body

Gaming consoles such as Nintendo Wii engage the player physically and mentally. Since both are important for cognitive function, think of it as killing two birds with one stone. They may aid seniors in improving coordination, balance, and reflexes.

Final thoughts

Based on the available data, it appears that video games can be useful in warding off cognitive decay in aging individuals. However, many of the studies that deal with this subject matter are incomplete. More research is definitely needed with larger samples.

Instead of solely relying on video games for improving cognitive function and memory, one should enjoy them interchangeably with other activities.

How Can Wise Investments in the Stock Market Help You Retire?

Written by Becky Wilcox

The stock market is the home for wise investors. With the right companies, your money will grow over time with inflation. When you keep your money in the bank, it stays frozen. Certain stocks pay dividends and you will share the spoils of their success. You work hard for your money. At some point, you want your money to work hard for you. Analyst ratings today can be very accurate, so stay on top of the news before you make your financial decisions.

The Importance of Planning Early for Your Retirement

Thinking about your retirement early is one of the most important preparations you can make. As soon as you enter the workforce, you should be thinking about your retirement. When you are young, time moves slow. As you get older, time is on steroids. It doesn’t take much to get the ball rolling to establish your nest egg. Saving ten percent of your income adds up over the years. Doing your research online and talking to professionals can give you some confidence. Your retirement years can be the best years of your life if you take the right preliminary steps. But remember, it is never too late to get your affairs in order.

World News and the Stock Market

The stock market flows with the tone of the news. Whatever happens in the world reflects on the market. The thing is, the whole market does not react the same. Certain news can make one sector do good while that same news makes another sector do bad. COVID-19 is the big topic dominating the news right now. This news is affecting the entertainment sector in a negative way. At the same time, biomedical stocks are thriving right now.

It is a good idea to stay on top of current events when making your decisions regarding the market. If you are in the market for the long run, certain news events shouldn’t make you panic. As long as you invest in the right companies, they should stand the test of time.

Technical Analysis and the Stock Market

One of the best ways to study the stock market is through technical analysis. The way you do this is by studying charts of the chosen stock’s historical performance. There are many websites that give you this information on a daily basis. By studying past trends, you can make predictions of how the stock should perform in the future.

Technical analysis indicator tools can help you spot trends, so you can make good investments. These tools are add-ons that you can put on your chart reading software. Here are the names of some of the most popular indicators:

Bollinger Bands

MACD (moving average convergence divergence)

Aroon Indicator

Stochastic Oscillator

Relative Strength Index

How to Read a Stock Quote

When you do research on a stock, it is important to understand the information that is presented to you. At first glance, you will receive data that can give you a rough idea if you should deal with the stock or not. Here is a list of important information to look out for:

Market Cap: The market cap is the number of shares the stock has available multiplied by the price of the stock. The sum of this equation will tell you what the company is worth.

Average Volume: The average volume tells you how much activity the stock has on a daily basis.

Day Range: The day range tells you the lowest price and the highest price the stock hit within that day.

52 Week Range: The 52-week range tells you the lowest price and the highest price the stock hit within a year’s period.

Shares Outstanding: The shares outstanding tells you how many stocks the company has.

Public Float: The public float tells you how many share the company has available to the public.

EPS: This stands for earnings per share. The EPS tells you the profit on each stock.

P/E Ratio: The P/E ratio tells you the company’s share price compared to the earnings per share.

So, should you invest in stocks to prepare for your retirement? The answer is yes. The important thing to do is your research. With proper preparation, stock market investing can be very profitable.

7 Ways For Older Adults To Boost Cognitive Fitness and Longevity

Written by Holly Klamer

Recent studies show that reduced cognitive function may shorten life expectancy, according to Huffington Post. Based on the analysis, it can cause one to age prematurely.

While the majority of people today typically associate “cognitive development” to young individuals, experts said older people must also develop their cognitive functions. Not only that it may boost longevity but, it can also reduce the risk of further premature aging.

By making certain lifestyle choices, every older adult can, indeed, boost cognitive fitness. Here are some of the best and effective ways to do it:

  • Exercise to Improve Cognitive Function

Everyone already knows the importance of exercising regularly. But, aside from the physical benefits, having an exercise routine can boost cognitive functions, which eventually benefits one’s longevity.

Based on studies, exercising increases blood circulation, particularly in the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory.

Another reason why exercising helps is due to the reduction of tissue density loss in the brain. Studies found out that people who are “aerobically fit” possess better cognitive functioning. This is likely one of the reasons why all senior assisted living homes and facilities include exercises and physical activities in their respective daily schedules.

  • Improving Cognitive Function Through Engagement

Whether it is engagement with new skills or activities, several new pieces of literature suggest that older individuals who engage themselves in a variety of activities show improvements in their cognitive functions. Reports, however, noted that the benefits of these engagements depend on the quality of the activity and the experience.

But, regardless, older individuals can expect improvements, especially when the activities and engagements are “entirely novel.” Therefore, experts today encourage seniors and adults to try new activities and engage with them on a daily basis.

  • Play Board Games and Card Games

Some Alzheimer’s care facilities for seniors in recent times have included various kinds of activities, like games and puzzles, in their schedules. Some institutions attest to the positive effects of these avenues in “stimulating” cognitive functions.

Alongside the great benefits to the further development of the brain, these kinds of pursuits also promote enjoyment among the elderly. It makes total sense why caregivers resort to providing board and card games, especially for seniors with dementia. Some great board and card games include checkers, scrabble, bingo, and monopoly.

  • Take Up a New Hobby

Taking up new hobbies is another effective way to boost cognitive fitness, which then leads to better longevity. Experts recommend elderly individuals to learn new things, like antiquing, gardening, raising pets, or even learning to play musical instruments.

Whether it may be a self-learning activity or a class led by experts, new hobbies and activities help develop new connections between neurons. Studies conclude that this helps offset cell loss due to conditions and even aging alone.

  • Use Memory Tricks

Using memory tricks is another way to boost cognitive functions. This is very helpful, especially for older adults who are suffering from memory problems.

Here are some tricks that will get you started:

  • Making a list

Making a list helps improve memory, not only for people who have memory-related concerns but, to everyone, as well. The act of categorizing and organizing thoughts on a piece of paper makes remembering them much easier. Not to mention, the act of writing the thoughts further helps reinforce the mind.

  • Discovering the “whys”

Thinking and understanding the “why” of something helps one to strengthen memory. It gives the connection to the main purpose of that something, which makes it more memorable.

  • Breaking it down

Another best trick for memory concerns is breaking all the information down into much simpler terms. For instance, remembering a six-digit number might be a challenge for older individuals. Instead of memorizing it all at once, breaking it down to three digits per try will be much more helpful. There is actually a reason phone numbers are divided into smaller bits.

  • Mnemonics help

Mnemonics is another trick that everybody can do. In almost every field of study and discipline, traditional mnemonics are rampant. These are patterns of letters, ideas, and/or associations that make something more memorable. One great example of this is the seven colors of the rainbow: ROY G BIV.

  • Reading

Reading is a great way to exercise the brain. Neuroscientists found out that reading novels and other materials improves several brain functions on a variety of levels.

While reading, in general, helps, research suggests that novels particularly enhance the “connectivity” patterns in the brain, resulting in a more improved brain. The activity also flexes the imagination, which further stimulates other functions of the brain.

  • Social Connections

Aside from engaging in different hobbies and activities, engaging with other people also helps boost cognitive functions, which results in better longevity, which has also been known to prevent dementia. Making social connections not only stimulates the brain but, also, helps the mind, emotion, and will.

Moreover, studies have identified that the primary health consequences of loneliness trigger the further decline of psychological and cognitive functions.

Final Thoughts

All in all, these are the seven of the best and most effective ways to improve cognitive functions. As noted, the lesser risk of cognitive decline, the better life expectancy one can have. So, as much as possible, get the mind and brain active on a regular basis. Preventing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease will help older adults avoid the need for memory care homes down the road.