A brain that trains can stay in the fast lane. That's the message of a study showing that playing a brain training video game for a month can rejuvenate the multitasking abilities of people in their 60s, 70s and 80s.
"After training, they improved their multitasking beyond the level of 20-year-olds," says Adam Gazzaley, one of the study's authors and a brain scientist at the University of California, San Francisco.
And the improvement extended beyond multitasking, Gazzaley says: Participants also got better at remembering information and paying attention.
Moreover, the training actually changed participants' brains. Brain wave patterns associated with focus got stronger, Gazzaley says. So did connections between visual areas of the brain and areas involved in making decisions. And tests showed that six months after training, the improvements were still there.
The study's finding confirms earlier research suggesting that healthy brains are still highly capable as they age, says David Meyer, of the University of Michigan.
As people get older, they tend to adopt "more conservative strategies" when it comes to evaluating information and taking action, Meyer says. That can slow them down and lead to poor results when they do something like playing a video game that requires quick responses, he says.