Psychologist: Playing Bejeweled will make you mentally sharper

PopCap Games appears to be on a mission to prove that casual games can help cure big societal and health problems. Just last month, the Seattle game company commissioned a study which said that video games help parents and grandparents strengthen bonds with their kids and grandkids. Now, comes a study that says adults over the age of 50 see cognitive benefits from playing PopCap’s hit title Bejeweled Blitz.

According to the study conducted by University of Massachusetts Amherst psychology researcher Susan K. Whitbourne, 47 percent of adults over the age of 50 reported “feeling sharper” while performing other tasks. From the press release:

Whitbourne believes that Bejeweled Blitz is a plausible platform for improving cognitive skills because it requires several of the skills that have been shown to be improved in action video games. If certain cognitive skills can be improved through action training, then perhaps those skills can also be improved through Bejeweled Blitz training.

So, what do you think? Can puzzle games like Bejeweled Blitz actually improve cognitive abilities in the aging population?

If nothing else, it is certainly a great marketing strategy for PopCap. In fact, PopCap can follow the path of the wine industry, which has helped support study after study showing the health benefits of drinking wine.

Walter Boot, director of the Attention and Training Lab of the Department of Psychology at Florida State University, called the  Bejeweled Blitz research “critical and exciting.”

“More research like this needs to be done exploring not only the types of games that bring about cognitive benefits, but also the types of games older adults are willing to play and why,” Boot said.  ”The best cognitive aging intervention in the world is useless if older adults aren’t willing and able to engage in it.”

And this isn’t the first time that PopCap, which was just acquired by Electronic Arts for up to $1.3 billion, has touted the psychological benefits of playing computer games.

Last year, a researcher at East Carolina University’s Psychophysiology Lab independently reported a sizable improvement in cognitive abilities among older adults who played casual games like Bejeweled.

“The initial results of the study are very intriguing, in that they suggest that the ‘active participation’ required while playing a casual video game like Bejeweled provides an opportunity for mental exercise that more passive activities, like watching television, do not,” said researcher Carmen Russoniello. “Future applications could include prescriptive applications using casual video games to potentially stave off Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-type disorders.”

So, what’s holding you up? Go open a nice Bordeaux tonight and play a game of Bejeweled?

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