Five new video games to make elders safer drivers

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Washington, October 12 : San Francisco-based firm Posit Science has developed a set of five video games, together called InSight, to improve the mental acuity of older drivers.

Insurance provider Allstate sent the games to 100,000 drivers aged 50 to 75 in Pennsylvania last week, hoping that the pilot program will turn older drivers into safer drivers.

"We expect to see that the group using the software will have a lower frequency of crashes verses the group that didn't use the software," Discovery News quoted Tom Warden of Allstate as saying.

Previously, Japanese game maker Nintendo had come up with games designed to reverse certain effects of aging. But since they were never scientifically proven to work, Nintendo stopped making brain-training games.

Allstate and Posit claim that they have science on their side.

They insist that 10 hours of game play turns the clock back 10 years in terms of memory, useful field of view, processing visual information, and general cognitive functions.

According to them, increased mental acuity leads to safer drivers.

Both companies substantiate their claims by referring to studies funded by the National Institutes of Health, and conducted at the University of Alabama, which showed that similar video games could cut the risk of a crash by 50 per cent.

Warden said that the training didn't only make better drivers, but "it raises the overall quality of life."

"The benefits are not just in physical activities like driving a car, but also in remembering things more often to have fewer senior moments," he added.

He further said that the effects wear off after several months, but replaying the games could restore them.

Silent neurons in the brain start firing randomly as people age, and the increase in activity creates excessive noise.

Joe Hardy of Posit Science says that their games help turn down the extra noise, and let the brain focus on what is important.

The games train players to identify and track objects amid cluttered backgrounds.

In a game called Jewel Diver, a player must keep track of multiple hidden jewels while travelling around a cluttered screen. It aims at helping players hone their ability to track cars, pedestrians, and other roadside objects.

In another game called Route 66, the player identifies a car or truck in the centre of the screen, while keeping track of periphery signs. It improves on a player's ability to quickly identify important details, and react appropriately to them.

Allstate says that depending on the results of its study, expected to last until March, it may offer drivers a discount on their automobile insurance if they complete the games.

While it remains to be seen if Posit's software will change the insurance industry, it is already changing how scientists view the brain.

"In the past we thought that the brain was this static object, and after it became fully developed it slowly declined. Now through the right exercises you can maintain a high level of function coupled with the experience age brings," said Hardy.

ANI

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