My Time: Brain boost for people over 50

Intro to computers course (Source: LSU OLLI Program)
Intro to computers course (Source: LSU OLLI Program)
Field trip to WWII Museum (Source: LSU OLLI Program)
Field trip to WWII Museum (Source: LSU OLLI Program)
Course - Loving Louisiana (Source: LSU OLLI Program)
Course - Loving Louisiana (Source: LSU OLLI Program)
OLLI Art (Source: LSU OLLI Program)
OLLI Art (Source: LSU OLLI Program)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Is there a way we can use computer games and phone apps to sharpen our brains. For people over 50, the loss of some memory skills natural with aging can be alarming.

WAFB's Donna Britt went in search of an answer on the video game question because of all the advertisements seen these days for programs claiming to boost your brain power.

Judy and Duke Curnette of Baton Rouge have been married for 50 years. The lovebirds' house is filled with their love of antiques, many remind them of their youth. Judy is now 70 and Duke is 80. The Curnette's play an app on her phone. Duke has Alzheimer's and they're using Lumosity to try to sharpen his memory and thinking functions.

Both Judy and Duke are retired teachers. As they sit side-by-side on the couch, Judy touches her phone app and reads the math quiz to Duke.

Judy: "It says 4 take away 2."

Duke: "2." Judy: "Good. 8 take away 2."

Duke: "6."

Judy: "Press that answer and 'Answer Good'. 10 take away 5." Duke: "5".>

Duke does not hesitate with his answer to simple addition and subtraction, but with advanced Alzheimer's when division comes up briefly, he falters.

When asked if Lumosity has helped, Judy replies, "I think he's doing better. I mean his math skills have gotten a lot better. And recognizing things. It helps him focus. And I think he's done better!"

The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is studying the effects of aging on your mental functions along with a larger deeper look at dementia and as part of that Alzheimer's. Our 9-News crew spoke with Dr. Jeffrey N. Keller, the leading researcher at Pennington's "Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention". Dr. Keller says, "You're gonna be seeing a lot from Pennington in the coming weeks and months on new uses of technology for health, and in particular cognition."

Cognition is the word these researchers use for that all-important brain function using memory, decoding of symbols in your world, recognizing and processing the information. And with all the quick action of hands, eye recognition and more you use in mainstream video games like Call of Duty, and more...could THEY possibly help build brain power?

The University of California at San Francisco has launched studies on the effects of mainstream video games on your brain power. But that research is just beginning. Could Angry Birds and Super Mario help you boost your brain power? We'll have to wait on that one. Dr. Keller at Pennington says it's not necessarily WHAT you do, but the challenge it represents that matters....

"I think the key to something being effective is that it challenges. What research shows is that when we do the same things over and over again that do not require that flexibility, the ability to multi-task, do more than one thing at once, or push ourselves to do something new, they're not as effective. You HAVE to challenge yourself! "

Based on what he's said, Donna wonders if playing a video game can become so routine that it doesn't help you anymore? Think about that possibility.

But also remember that doing multi-task things, and seeking out new learning is mind sharpening activity.

LSU has a program designed for people over 50 that could address that very thing. For years it was called "Lagniappe Studies", but now with a sponsor it is the "Osher Lifelong Learning Institute". You take classes for 15 to 30 dollars and learn something new on a vast variety of subjects: things like behind the scenes of LSU Football, or history lectures, or gardening, origami, belly dancing! Get more information or sign up for classes, call 225-578-2500.

Dr. Jeffrey Keller is looking for people with diagnosed Alzheimer's to participate in a long-term study. If you'd like to be a part of a study that may someday lead to a cure for Alzheimer's contact Pennington's Alzheimer's study at or call 1-877-276-8306. People travel from Alabama to be part of this study. It's important that people with Alzheimer's participate.

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