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Nintendo Keeps Wits and Reflexes Sharp 73

PreacherTom writes "While not definitively proven, the concept that video games can stave off mental degradation in the elderly is gaining favor. 'Nintendo ... boast[s] that Brain Age was developed with the help of Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, a respected Japanese neuroscientist whose face pops up at the start of every game. Kawashima believes brains can be kept young and nimble through the rapid repetition of simple mental challenges. The game is wildly popular in Japan, and 4 million copies have been sold worldwide since Brain Age was introduced 15 months ago.'"
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Nintendo Keeps Wits and Reflexes Sharp

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  • ...did we even need another one?
  • Eh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LokiTD ( 951153 )
    This post reads like an advertisement.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by soupforare ( 542403 )
      "You must be new here", I believe, is the correct response.

      Whored articles on /. is tradition!
  • Brain Age (Score:4, Funny)

    by pixelq ( 810218 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @01:43AM (#16119071)
    That is a no brainer.
  • by WidescreenFreak ( 830043 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @01:45AM (#16119076) Homepage Journal
    Why is this being treated like it's a new issue? It's been known for years that keeping yourself active mentally keeps your alertness level up. Video games have been the subject of a lot of reports that the continual hand/eye coordination and continual exposure to numerous stimuli, like video, audio, reaction times, puzzle solutions, and so forth, keep the brain active and responsive. There are studies that eldery people who play things like crossword puzzles on a regular basis are generally more alert and have a better mental capacity than others their age who don't engage in such behaviors.

    For crying out loud! Even Ronald Reagan thought during his presidency that the continual hand/eye coordination and quick thinking that were necessary with video games were good at keeping kids mentally alert! That fact that this dates back to RR means that this is 20 year old information. (Yeah, yeah, I know that he was a republican and therefore a target for knee-jerk, Slashdot ridicule, but no comments about ketchup or alzhimers, all right?)

    Why .. oh why .. is this news to anyone?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ocdude ( 932504 )
      It's news to people who constantly bash video games as the source of all that is unholy in our society. Do you really think that people like Jack Thompson know or would care to know that video games just might be helpful?
    • I'm sure most videogame companies/advocates would like to forget Reagan as an example of keeping mentally fit :P
      • Wow, bashing someone for having the DISEASE Alzheimers. Really classy there...

        Having a grandmother who currently has alzheimers, I only hope for your sake that you--or anyone else--ever have to go through the same thing... it's completely awful, and regardless of your political feelings, your statement was incredibly without class and basic decency.
        • Wow, I don't even know how to respond to that. I'd say you need a nice helping of lighten the fuck up.
          • Well, my first response would be, you don't have any reason to respond, as afaict, you didn't post the comment I was replying to... unless I missed something?
    • by hmccabe ( 465882 )

      Why .. oh why .. is this news to anyone?

      Because it's been hours since the last Nintendo story. These days people are going to be posting about the Wii and DS anyways, they might as well post a story so it's on topic.

      In the interest of being on topic, I should say that I just finished playing Brain Age a few minutes ago and I feel much smarter. My prefrontal cortex is hella fit.

      • Well, it's working.

        I just decided that paying 317 US$ (250 EUR) for the Wii was really expensive.
        So I changed my mind and rather buy this 190 US$ (150 EUR) DS lite.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kfg ( 145172 ) *
      oh why .. is this news to anyone?

      They're selling something. The aging brain is a sucker.

    • There are studies that eldery people who play things like crossword puzzles on a regular basis are generally more alert and have a better mental capacity than others their age who don't engage in such behaviors.

      So you're saying that those old people who aren't "mentally fit" enough to do things like crossword puzzles... don't do things like crossword puzzles?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      My thought is that video games are but one way to stay mentally active. They seem to challenge various parts of your brain. If you take the old saying "use it or lose it" and apply it to the various parts of the brain, the more areas of your brain you keep challenged the better. You could think of video games as having "good test coverage" (re: software unit testing). How much test coverage does the game of Chess (strategy) or say a team-based multiplayer game give you? Seems it would be best to do 'cr
    • Tht prgrm rlly hlpd -- My mnd dsn't nd vwls nw.

      Nxt stp, pncttn wn't b ncssry.

  • It worked for me.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 16, 2006 @02:01AM (#16119110)
    I believe it. I had brain surgery to remove a minor tumor, it was supposed to be completely safe and undamaging, but the surgery didn't go well and I ended up with a brain injury. I had terrible problems remembering words, and reading was very difficult. What pulled me through was playing Boggle on my computer. I figure the word game helped me reactivate my damaged memory pathways, and retrained me in pattern recognition. I still suck at Boggle, but I always did, even before the surgery. But now I seem to be back to my previous levels of literacy again, and the computer game helped me get there.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 16, 2006 @05:52AM (#16119516)

      Next time get your Doctors to improve their skill with Trauma Center [].

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        You may have said this in jest, but there have been studies that suggest that playing video games before surgery can reduce the number of errors that surgeons make. Especially for Laparoscopic surgery, where the surgeon must use a television to see what he is doing. []

        • Though I remember reading the article and I believe it has a great deal of validity... I'm not so sure I'd want my orthopedic sugeon (who is an amazing surgeon) playing Halo 2 deathmatch for 20 minutes before performing. Nor would I want to hear, "I totally pwnd that labram!" when he's finished. But, who knows.
    • Well I'm glad you seem to be "back to normal"... The notion that you can have brain surgery to remove a tumor, and it being "undamaging", is, well, "quaint". Neurosurgeons speak of "eloquent cortex" (cortex that is obviously doing something useful) and "non-eloquent cortex" (brain that you aren't obviously using and won't miss if removed), but it is of course just a euphemism, and a bedtime story told to unknowing patients. The fact is that you are using ALL of your brain -- it ALL has a function, some par
  • Is there an alternative to this "Brain Exercise" game for the PC? Brain Age sure looks interesting, but I'm not going to buy a console just to be able to play this one game (I know that Nintendo wants me to do that, but I don't have the money).

    I know that PopCap Games makes great puzzle games from time to time, but are there any others? Maybe open source, even?
    • No need for a technological replacement at all. My grandfather does crosswords when he's not painting, reading the newspaper, or playing poker.

      Games aren't the only ways to keep a mind nimble, although I respect a neuroscientist who puts his money where his mouth is.

      And hey... the Wii is only $250... compared that to the price of the NES adjusted for inflation, and it's not a bad deal. Especially since they're supposed to be releasing classic games for the console in the $5-$10 range. I've lost a few f
    • by Quadraginta ( 902985 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @02:43AM (#16119203)
      Is there an alternative to this "Brain Exercise" game...?

      Read Jane Eyre or Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton? Play tennis, golf, ping-pong? Learn to play the ukelele? Study Latin? Get together with friends to play bridge and argue politics?

      It seems hardly surprising that playing video games is better than simply allowing your brain to rot. But I'd be equally surprised if playing video games is better than the more obvious and traditional ways to stay active as you age.
      • by RockModeNick ( 617483 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @09:04AM (#16119837)
        I think video games might be particularly useful for isolated older people.
        • And those who are incapacitated in nursing homes. Kinda hard to argue politics after you've had a stroke. I've met one or two that get it done pretty well, but it can be very frustrating for everyone involved.
      • by slowbad ( 714725 )
        It seems hardly surprising that playing video games is better than simply allowing your brain to rot.

        Specifically though, Brain Age is targeted at the millions of older adults who purchase things like the herbal "Focus Factor" supplements (the ones Larry King kept saying worked for him -- right up until the week that a well-publicized study about its main ingredient proved otherwise)

        Brain Age has a bit of scientific research behind it that I have little reason to doubt. But it is a 2 trick pony based on

    • Paulius,
      I basically felt the same way you currently do about the Nintendo DS (lite)....can't afford it, don't want another console, etc.
      Having said that...I bought one for the fiance...several months ago, and it's incredible. The console itself is such a superb design, and the games are truly great. We have Mario Cart, Brain Age, Super Mario Bros, and a couple others. I'm saving up to buy another NDS so that we can play each other.
      Anyway, my point is...I know what it's like to be broke...but
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) *
      "Is there an alternative to this "Brain Exercise" game for the PC?"

      Gee Grandson, it's a Wurlitzer!

    • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )
      There are dozens of PC brain exercise games that popped up after the DS game became successful, no idea which ones are any good. Many people enjoy that the DS game uses the stylus and microphone for input (so you say or write the answer instead of typing it) although its letter recognition is a bit borked from what I heard.
      • Many people enjoy that the DS game uses the stylus and microphone for input

        Yeah, right. I have one word to say to you on that subject: blue!

        I said BLUE. What, you deaf or something? BLUE! BLUE! BLUUUUE!

        • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )
          That doesn't apply to the language I've used it in. Though the recognition fails if you go too close to the microphone, you're supposed to hold the DS at the normal gaming distance (50cm or so) and speak normally.
        • I had the same problem, but found that if I say bluuue instead of blue it understands it just fine.
        • I said BLUE. What, you deaf or something? BLUE! BLUE! BLUUUUE!

          Make sure you understand the origin (the designer's background) of the game.

          You pronounce it, "BRRRUUUEEEE"
  • My mom did it on a steady diet of Super Mario (Brothers/World/64/Sunshine), Banjo-Kazooie (and sequels), and Ice Climber (and occasionally Wheel Of Fortune). Before the NES it was Astrosmash and Lock 'n' Chase for the Intellivision, and occasionally Jumpman for the C64. She and I both agreed that the mental stimulation and the hand-eye coordination required to keep playing kept her mind sharp, even if she needed me to get past the really tough parts.
  • by Spazntwich ( 208070 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @02:10AM (#16119129)
    I sat there, stylus in hand, wondering if the grim visage greeting my own was there to offer me more drugs, train my brain, or steal my soul. I reluctantly pressed the start button, and then the horror began. Numbers, symbols, some unholy language. What did it all mean? I had to get to the bottom of the mystery that was rapidly sucking the vitality from my already wizened exterior.

    Before I knew it, I was naked in the street, shouting about demon doctors and magical mushrooms. The plumber, THE FIREBALLS OF ETERNAL DAMNATION.

    Then it occured to me: When the nurse came with my daily dose of anti-psychotics, I had tried to swallow her and thank the friendly pills for my daily dose of nuturing.

    Maybe I should put my clothes back on.
  • No, it's not a porn site. It's a 70 year old lady who's been playing video games for 20 years now. It's funny to watch her swear like a sailor when playing them.
  • by Swordsmanus ( 921213 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @03:30AM (#16119271) Homepage
    TFA dated September 25 2006. The author apparently has either found a time machine or hasn't been playing enough Brain Age!
    • How do you know that it isn't actually September 25th, and that our calendar was overzealously started a few days too early, hmm? If you'd played Brain Age, you'd have thought of that.
  • Great, now I'm going to have nightmares of really old people playing Dance Dance Revolution.

  • Big Brain Academy (Score:4, Informative)

    by Xian97 ( 714198 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @09:15AM (#16119864)
    I prefer Big Brain Academy to Brain Age. I found the handwriting recognition in Brain Age hit and miss, reading my 4s as 9s half of the time. In the Stroop test where it uses voice recognition, I have to repeat the word "Blue" frequently as it usually doesn't understand it the first time. The game is still fun though, but it would be less frustrating and I would have a higher score if it wasn't for those shortcomings.

    On the other hand, Big Brain Academy doesn't rely on voice and handwriting recognition, and also has more excercises. If I could pick just one of the brain training games, Big Brain Academy would be my choice.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jerf ( 17166 )
      My wife wanted to get a DS (w00t!) just for Brain Age and Big Brain Academy, which she played at a friends briefly.

      She initially liked Brain Age better, as did I, but Big Brain Academy has aged better.

      It feels less stupid. Brain Age is true to its goal of trying to keep your brain alert, but many of the challenges only make sense in that context. If you're not in to things where the computer just sits there and watches you do it, like making you draw a picture but being completely unable to grade it, you wo
    • I found the handwriting recognition in Brain Age hit and miss, reading my 4s as 9s half of the time. In the Stroop test where it uses voice recognition, I have to repeat the word "Blue" frequently

      I've let dozens of people play the game and it is a show-stopper for most everyone over the age of 35 or 40 -- way beyond frustrating, due to this big BAD bug in this software.

      I still think it does a couple of the exercises well, but why they never bothered fixing this is bewildering at best (if you really try t

      • by 2008 ( 900939 )
        You don't have to play the voice recognition part of the game (apart from once or twice on a new save).
        Once you unlock more tests you can choose which to play when finding you brain age, so you can just ignore the broken Stroop test. It's a flaw but it's not a show stopper, there are enough other modes to keep my family busy with the game.

        It is pretty weird that they shipped the game with this mode featured so prominently though.
  • Now is clear what im gonna get. If you need help deciding wich console to buy you may want to check this out. /aid/61571 []
    Eye opener!!!!!!1111!uno
  • by Solr_Flare ( 844465 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @01:43PM (#16120815)
    As others have posted, using a variety of games, or even certain non-gaming activities, can give the same benefits as Brain Age. However, after using Brain Age/Big Brain Academy for several months I can safely say the two games are far more effective because they are specifically designed for this purpose. I'm a pretty die hard gamer myself, but after a month of using Brain Age I began to notice a marked improvement in how quickly I could mentally respond to a given task. This wasn't something I just noticed myself, some of my friends and co-workers even commented about how sharper I seemed.

    Of the two games, I think most people would enjoy Big Brain Academy more because it feels more like a game, while Brain Age feels more like homework. However, I found Brain Age to be the better of the two simply because its math games are great for people who want to improve their basic math skills.
  • Experts in cognitive chronometrics and also neuroplasticity have long held these views, but research conducted in the past 3 years and published supports the contention that you can enhance your brain...building a cognitive reserve through 'education' and cognitive training. Some of the gains in BrainAge are due to the practice effect, as are some of the gains in chonometrics, but it also seems that greater attention, speed, and focus capability is a direct result, e.g., your coding is likely to be both fa
  • Why waste time with this Nintendo crap? Go buy gramps a copy of Total Annihilation or some other good RTS (or wait for the upcoming Supreme Commander) and REALLY put his mind to work. If he really plays it "real time", he'll be honing some good reflexes. too.

Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. -- F.M. Hubbard