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Researchers at UKE find computer game helps with self-monitoring

Computer game boosts self-control - may offer protection from alcohol and smoking

Older people can improve their self-control thanks to a computer game, according to a study by researchers at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) and which was published Wednesday in the online edition of Neurolmage. Led by Prof. Dr. Simone Kühn, the researchers found that training reinforces the part of brain responsible for inhibition. Kühn said: “Inhibition refers to the ability to interrupt an intended action or something that has already been started. The ability to inhibit is the basis of suitable and appropriate behaviour and prevents us e.g. from giving in to impulses to enjoy cigarettes or alcohol.“

Positive eight-week computer training

The researchers trained 20 older men and women aged between 62 and 78 years for two months with a computer game developed by the team. The trainees played the game for 15 minutes every day and had to distinguish between “permitted” and “banned” objects. They were only allowed take “permitted” objects from the virtual buffet and put them on their plates. An active and passive control group was also formed. After eight weeks, the ability of the participant to inhibit was tested and their brain structure examined. All those in the training group showed significantly improved inhibition. The thickness of the cortex responsible for inhibition also increased significantly. More studies will now test whether the computer game can help people addicted to alcohol or nicotine to remain abstinent.

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