Games like “Angry Birds” can strengthen mental acuity and possibly ward off Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study by the Archives of Neurology, contrasting the notion that games may rot the brain.
The study acknowledges playing Angry Birds and other smartphone games can help prevent the growth of the protein amyloid, thought to hasten and cause dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other conditions associated with memory loss.
This new study indicates that games need not be specially designed for education to promote healthy brain function, particularly among the elderly population.
“There was no emphasis on what games were played, but just at what age and how often people were participating in brain stimulating activities, including reading, writing, and games,” said Dr. Susan Landau on the study.
She emphasizes the value of smartphone and tablet games, equating their effectiveness to rattling off Shakespearean monologues or engaging in a strenuous game of chess.
The news dovetails with other measures focusing on the benefits of gaming. President Obama called for educational video games for children and people of all ages, indicating that the government recognizes games as potential learning tools.
Studies linking tablet use to benefits for children with autism also emphasize the value of smartphones and tablets as learning aids, so these tools are geared for both mainstream classrooms and people with special learning needs.
Beyond helping younger learners, educational technology is also designed for the older crowd. GE and Intel joined forces to develop a tablet for the elderly designed to keep the aging population connected and allow easy monitoring.
The study connecting app games and mental health for the elderly is likely to encourage the older demographic to use the devices to exercise their minds, so GE and Intel are likely to be the first among several companies vying for the elderly market.
Angry Birds is immensely popular, and is the fastest-growing brand in the world. Children and young adults are the intended audience, but the game’s expansion onto Facebook will lead to a wider range of users.
As older people hear about the potential health benefits of app games, chances are they will know a younger person familiar with the app willing to teach them how to use it. The study is likely to spur an uptick in elderly Angry Birds enthusiasts, so the new theme park in China based on the game may need to install an early bird special lunch buffet on the premises.