The creators of a video game called Project: Evo are marketing it not to kids but to older adults, doctors and the FDA. They claim the tricky game strengthens memory, reflexes and multi-tasking, all mental skills that slacken as we age. But do brain games really work?
Most neuroscientists say there isn't enough evidence to back up most games' promises. This month, a group of 30 scientists even released a statement called “The Consensus on the Brain Training Industry From the Scientific Community" saying the games' health values tend to be exaggerated at best and misleading at worst.
Project: Evo, however, might be an outlier. The game's first iteration, NeuroRacer, yielded very promising results in a study, according to The New York Times:
The results were stark. Older adults who played the hardest version of NeuroRacer became very good at it — as good as 20-year-olds playing it for the first time. And crucially, there was “transfer.” Standard laboratory tests used to gauge a person’s working memory and ability to sustain attention showed that the NeuroRacer vets had “improved significantly.” And those skills weren’t the ones the game was specifically designed to focus on — their improvement was just a positive side effect. The players didn’t merely become better at NeuroRacer; they also became sharper at other things.
The game is currently being tested for effectiveness in treating conditions that accompany aging as well as act as a test to detect Alzheimer's.
In the meantime, scientists say regular exercise, learning a difficult new skill like a language and keeping up an active social life are all better-proven ways to maintain a healthy mind. But while many are skeptical, researchers aren't ruling out the idea that these games could have proven benefits in the future.
Even Project: Evo's developer Adam Gazzaley signed the statement, but encouraged the group to use more optimistic language. “Does anyone actually think there’s nothing here? My view is that from the work that we’ve done, there’s a signal," Gazzaley said to the times. "I’m a cautious optimist. If I didn’t think there was a signal, I’d be out of here — I’m not going to waste my entire career.”
Read the rest of the article in The New York Times.