Along with losing their memories, people who suffer from dementia also can end up losing their motor skills. While research is ongoing to to find a cure, so far nothing has been able to stop the progression of the deadly and heartbreaking disease.
But researchers in Belgium have discovered a way to drastically improve both cognitive and motor skills, reported the GOOD NEWS NETWORK. They developed a fitness video game that engages the part of the brain that controls both the cognitive and physical functions.
A 2015 study on healthy individuals showed that exercises which engage both physical and mental skills resulted in increased cognitive performance, which I’m turn can ward of future cognitive decline.
Scientists at ETH Zurich led the research, and said “It has been suspected for some time that physical and cognitive training also have a positive effect on dementia. However, in the past it has been difficult to motivate dementia patients to undertake physical activity over extended periods.”
The video game the researchers created is similar in context to the popular “Dance Dance Revolution,” where participants mimic signals they see on a screen. A platform with sensors connected to the screen is stood on, and the participants have to step on the sensors that coordinates with the sequence of movements that appear on the screen.
In the past, therapists have struggled to motivate dementia patents to participate in exercises that could improve cognitive function. But the fun nature of ETH’s program has intrigued the patients and have kept them engaged in the therapeutic exercises for longer periods.
An 8 week study involving 45 participants was performed to analyze whether the video program had any impact on cognitive and physical function. The participants were on average 85 years old and all suffered from severe dementia.
“The participants were divided into two groups on a random basis,” explains one of the researchers on the international team that conducted the study.
“The first group trained for 15 minutes with the Dividat Senso three times a week for eight weeks, while the second group listened to and watched music videos of their choice.”
The indisputable results showed a significant increase in cognitive skills including memory and attention. “For the first time, there’s hope that through targeted play we will be able not only to delay but also weaken the symptoms of dementia,” emphasizes researcher Eling de Bruin.
What is especially interesting is that the control group saw a decrease in these functions, solidifying the role that activities involving thought and movement can keep the brain healthy and the mind sharp.