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Video games for kids, and crossword puzzles for adults, may be just what the doctor should have ordered for treating dyslexia and age-related memory loss.

The news wires have been abuzz with two simple techniques for boosting brain power in kids and adults, video games and crossword puzzles. Action video games help children who have dyslexia develop the focus they need to read better, and doing crossword puzzles every day helps elderly people at risk for developing dementia hang on to their cognitive abilities just a little longer.

Playing Video Games Boosts Test Scores

In what has to be good news for kids everywhere, and shocking news to most parents trying to get their children to do their homework, Italian researchers have announced findings of a study that concludes

that children who play action-packed video games for hours on end actually make higher scores on their exams at school, rather than lower.

Apparently assuming that all kids play video games (and in North America and Europe, about 90% do), Italian researchers divided children with dyslexia into two groups. One group played an intense action video game called Rayman Raving Rabbids for 12 hours over a period 9 days, an hour and twenty minutes per day, while the other group played a less intense video game. Study author Andrea Facoetti told Health Day that kids in the intense action group improved their reading skills as much as children who had completed an intensive reading improvement program.

The results weren't insignificant. Playing Rayman Raving Rabbids for 9 days resulted in a full grade level improvement in reading scores on a standardized achievement test taken the dyslexic children in the study. Playing video games isn't a substitute for doing your homework, but at least in developmentally challenged kids, it's hardly a waste of time.

Video Games May Improve Listening Skills, Too

Dr. Facoetti and her colleagues were not the first researchers to find an improvement in academic skills in children who play video games. Researchers at the Universidad de la Laguna in Tenerife, in Spain, conducted a study in 2008 that found that

playing video games helps children aged 9 to 12 improve their comprehension of spoken language.

Unlike the Italian group, the Spanish scientists used a video game specifically designed for children who had dyslexia called Tradislexia. The game, the researchers concluded, trained the brain to distinguish syllables, which simplifies reading words phonetically. Whether the game would also be useful for children who get their schooling in languages other than Spanish is an unanswered question.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Franceschini S, Gori S, Ruffino M, Viola S, Molteni M, Facoetti A. Action video games make dyslexic children read better. Curr Biol. 2013 Mar 18. 23(6):462-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.01.044. Epub 2013 Feb 28.
  • Pillai JA, Hall CB, Dickson DW, Buschke H, Lipton RB, Verghese J. Association of crossword puzzle participation with memory decline in persons who develop dementia. J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2011 Nov. 17(6):1006-13. doi: 10.1017/S1355617711001111. PMID: 22040899 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
  • Photo courtesy of tameryesildag on Flickr:

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