Playing the online video game World of Warcraft (WoW) can boost cognitive functioning in older adults, especially those who scored poorly on cognitive ability tests before playing the game, according to new research from North Carolina State University.
“We chose World of Warcraft because it has attributes we felt may produce benefits,” said Dr. Anne McLaughlin, an assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and co-author of a paper on the study. “It is a cognitively challenging game in a socially interactive environment that presents users with novel situations.”
Researchers from the university’s Gains Through Gaming laboratory first tested the cognitive functioning of study participants, aged 60 to 77, to set a baseline. The researchers looked at spatial ability, memory, and how well participants could focus their attention.
An experimental group then played WoW on their home computers for approximately 14 hours over the course of two weeks, before being retested. A control group did not play the game, but were also retested after two weeks.
The researchers found the group that played WoW saw a much greater increase in cognitive functioning, although the effect varied according to each participant’s baseline score.
“Among participants who scored well on baseline cognitive functioning tests, there was no significant improvement after playing WoW — they were already doing great,” McLaughlin said. “But we saw significant improvement in both spatial ability and focus for participants who scored low on the initial baseline tests.”
Testing showed no change for participants on memory, she said.
The people who performed the worst on the initial testing saw the most improvement, added Dr. Jason Allaire, an associate professor of psychology and co-author of the paper, published online in Computers in Human Behavior.
Source: North Carolina State University