Space Fortress Game Training and Executive Control in Older Adults: A Pilot Intervention

Stern, Yaakov; Blumen, Helena M.; Rich, Leigh W.; Richards, Alexis; Herzberg, Gray; Gopher, Daniel

We investigated the feasibility of using the Space Fortress (SF) game, a complex video game originally developed to study complex skill acquisition in young adults, to improve executive control processes in cognitively healthy older adults. The study protocol consisted of 36 one-hour game play sessions over 3 months with cognitive evaluations before and after, and a follow-up evaluation at 6 months. Sixty participants were randomized to one of three conditions: Emphasis Change (EC)--elders were instructed to concentrate on playing the entire game but place particular emphasis on a specific aspect of game play in each particular game; Active Control (AC)--game play with standard instructions; Passive Control (PC)--evaluation sessions without game play. Primary outcome measures were obtained from five tasks, presumably tapping executive control processes. A total of 54 older adults completed the study protocol. One measure of executive control, WAIS-III letter-number sequencing, showed improvement in performance from pre- to post-evaluations in the EC condition, but not in the other two conditions. These initial findings are modest but encouraging. Future SF interventions need to carefully consider increasing the duration and or the intensity of the intervention by providing at-home game training, reducing the motor demands of the game, and selecting appropriate outcome measures.


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Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition

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February 24, 2018