Playing 'Super Mario' improves some brain function in elderly patients, study finds

Older adults who play the video game Super Mario 64 may experience an increase in hippocampal grey matter, according recent research out of the University of Montreal and Montreal-based International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research.

The study, published in PLOS One, assessed the effect of various interventions on grey matter in the hippocampus, cerebellum and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of adults aged 55 to 75. Researchers assigned eight participants to play Super Mario 64 and 12 participants to take a series of computerized piano lessons during a six-month period.

The group that played Super Mario 64 displayed a significant increase in grey matter within the hippocampus, while the group assigned to music lessons experienced an increase in grey matter within the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Both the video game and music lesson groups displayed grey matter growth in the cerebellum.

The 13 participants who were not assigned to any intervention experienced "significant grey matter loss in the hippocampus, cerebellum and [the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex]," according to the study authors.

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