Testing the “use it or lose it” philosophy, a new research study of 10,000 U.S. adults suggests that playing PopCap Games’ Bejeweled Blitz helps older people feel mentally “sharper” and quicker to see patterns.

Specifically, the study found of those who play Bejeweled Blitz regularly, 47 percent of adults over 50 reported feeling sharper while performing other tasks, and 23.9 percent of adults over 65 felt their ability to see patterns improved. The same percentage said they felt able to complete timed tasks more quickly.

The survey was paid for by PopCap, but it was conducted by Massachusetts Amherst psychology researcher Susan K. Whitbourne, Ph.D. and presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention. Participants were recruited via a blog posting on the Psychology Today website that contained a link to the online survey.

Whitbourne said this survey is the first in a series to examine the cognitive value of videogame play on an older audience. Most research has focused on studying the benefits of video games on children and young adults, she explained. Cognitive tasks involved in the game play of Bejeweled Blitz require rapid decision-making, conjunctive visual search skills and reaction time.

“I believe the work Dr. Whitbourne and her colleagues are doing, using Bejeweled Blitz, is both critical and exciting, and that more research like this needs to be done exploring not only the types of games that bring about cognitive benefits, but also the types of games older adults are willing to play and why,” said Dr. Walter Boot, director of the Attention and Training Lab of the Department of Psychology at Florida Sate University, after watching the presentation at the APA convention. “The best cognitive aging intervention in the world is useless if older adults aren’t willing and able to engage in it.”

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Screen grab courtesy of flickr userMeLY3o, used under Creative Commons license