Can video games decrease distraction and improve alertness?

Together with colleagues from the UNED, we found that older adults practicing a brain-training package (Luminosity) for 20 1-hour sessions show a reduction of deviance distraction in a cross-modal oddball task and an improvement of alterness. The results have just come out in PlosONE.

Abstract: A major goal of recent research in aging has been to examine cognitive plasticity in older adults and its capacity to counteract cognitive decline. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether older adults could benefit from brain training with video games in a cross-modal oddball task designed to assess distraction and alertness. Twenty-seven healthy older adults participated in the study (15 in the experimental group, 12 in the control group. The experimental group received 20 1-hr video game training sessions using a commercially available brain-training package (Lumosity) involving problem solving, mental calculation, working memory and attention tasks.  The control group did not practice this package and, instead, attended meetings with the other members of the study several times along the course of the study.  Both groups were evaluated before and after the intervention using a cross-modal oddball task measuring alertness and distraction. The results showed a significant reduction of distraction and an increase of alertness in the experimental group and no variation in the control group. These results suggest neurocognitive plasticity in the old human brain as training enhanced cognitive performance on attentional functions.

Reference: Mayas, J., Parmentier, F.B.R., Andrés, P., & Ballesteros, S. (2014). Plasticity of Attentional Functions in Older Adults after Non-Action Video Game Training: A Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS ONE 9(3): e92269. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092269