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Volunteer Opportunity: Using Computer Games to Boost Memory

Can you enhance your memory in older age by using computer games to train your brain? And are the games that claim to be specially designed “brain trainers” any better than your run-of-the-mill online word or solitaire game?

That’s what investigators at the Family Studies Research Center at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine want to find out.

The team plans to conduct  a computerized Cognitive Training Program among healthy New Yorkers age 80 and older to compare the effects of two specially designed games.

“A lot of people worry about their memory. We want people to get to age 80 cognitively intact, so we’d like to find out how using computers can help with word recall games,” explains Rebecca West, MA, clinical research coordinator for the project. The two games have been designed by an Israeli firm that has been scientifically testing them, she says. One of the games specifically addresses memory issues related to aging.

“We’ve seen a lot of research about people who read a lot, play card games, do crossword puzzles. And there are a number of commercial computer programs that claim to improve memory,” Ms. West notes. “We’re curious to see if these specially designed games are better than those that people can do for free.”

 

About the Study

 

Sound intriguing? You can sign up – and it’s all free.

Mount Sinai is looking for people age 80 and older who need not have been diagnosed with memory problems, have a home computer with Internet access and audio (or have regular access to one), and who are willing volunteer a few hours of their time over several months.

“We’ll visit three times. On the first visit, which will take around two to three hours, we’ll ask you to do some memory and thinking tasks. Then one of our trained staff members will set up the free computer program and help you use it for the first time,” West says.

Participants will be asked to use one of the computer programs every other day for seven to eight weeks, for around 20 minutes each time. West says the games are not hard. “If you are already playing card games on a computer, this will not be at all foreign to you.”

At the end of this game-playing period, two months after the first visit, a staff member will visit again for about an hour and ask you to complete the same memory and thinking tasks you did on the first visit. Four months later, you’ll be asked to tackle the cognitive tasks again. It’s all voluntary, and you can stop at any time.

The researchers will the compare the cognitive functioning of the two different game groups, before and after using the games, and analyze areas such as memory, language and attention. “We want to know if these products truly help thinking and memory. Do they make a real difference?” West says.

 

How to Sign Up

 

If you’re interested, contact Rebecca West at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine at: 212-659-5603 or by e-mail at rebecca.west@mssm.edu.

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