Playing a puzzle on your smartphone in old age could give you the short-term memory of someone in their twenties, a study has found.
The researchers analyzed 181 people between the ages of 60 and 81 who were asked about the digital games they played, as well as 209 people between the ages of 18 and 30.
Popular puzzles included crosswords, online quizzes and sudoku, similar to those available on The Mail+ app.
Participants were asked to take a test of their working memory – the ability to remember things such as shopping lists or phone numbers for a short period of time – which starts to decline later in life.
Older people who said they played online puzzles performed almost as well in the test as people aged 18 to 30 who did not play digital games.
(Stock photo) Popular puzzles included crosswords, online quizzes and sudoku, similar to those available on The Mail+ app
(Stock photo) Experts believe one of the reasons behind memory-boosting puzzles is that they encourage concentration and help people tune out distractions
Dr Fiona McNab, who led the study from York University, said: ‘We think these results are really encouraging.
“Older adults who reported playing puzzle games had working memory scores equivalent to younger adults who reported playing no games.
“This may be because people can preserve their working memory in old age by playing puzzle games.
“But it could also be, for example, that older people with better working memory are more likely to choose to play puzzle games, so more research is needed.”
Of the 390 participants, 141 said they played no digital games per week.
The rest were categorized into three categories based on whether the games they played were mostly puzzles, strategy games, such as online bridge and solitaire, or mostly action video games, which were the most popular. among the youngest.
To test people’s short-term memory, the researchers showed volunteers a number of red circles in boxes inside a grid, which appeared for a second and then disappeared.
The volunteers had to remember the positions of the red circles, sometimes ignoring the annoying yellow circles, while the number of red circles shown to them increased.
On average, the youngsters who didn’t play any digital games could remember the position of eight red circles in their brains, while the older group managed just over six.
This was expected because working memory tends to decline as people age.
But older people who played online puzzle games remembered nearly seven red circles, meaning their memory was not significantly different from that of some people old enough to be their children or grandchildren.
Even young people who played puzzle games online had no better memories than older people who played them.
Experts believe that one of the reasons behind memory-boosting puzzles is that they encourage concentration and help people tune out distractions.
It’s useful when you’re trying to remember something important, like a shopping list, without getting distracted.
Older people who did puzzles were less likely to be distracted by the yellow circles in the same grid as the red circles they had to remember, based on their scores on that task.
The older people in the study played about ten hours of number puzzles per week, while the younger ones played about five hours.
But this was not related to the results because older people also spent more time playing strategy games, but did not have better memory scores related to these games.
Young people had, on average, better memory scores if they played strategy games rather than action games.
Strategy games played by older people may not be as difficult as games played by younger people.
The researchers say that future studies could focus on why there is a difference between the impacts of game types depending on a player’s age, and whether this is related to how the brain stores games. information as people age.
The study was published in the journal Heliyon.