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Training Attention Control with Gaze-driven Games
Jeanne Townsend (UC San Diego)
Lab Supervisor and Game Science and Design MS student Ara Jung
By 2030, 25% of the population of the US will be aged 65 or older. The impact on public health systems is a major concern. An additional concern is for the quality of life in older adults who are experiencing decline in memory and cognitive function that affects daily life and may progress to dementia. Prevention, however, is a possibility with evidence from studies suggesting that enhancement of cognitive function may reduce effects and delay the onset of cognitive decline. We designed and developed gaze-driven video games played at home to train foundational cognitive skills. Using this approach, we demonstrated significant improvement in processing speed and selective attention in older adults and have found transfer to improved processing in the visual periphery during simulated driving. A distinct advantage of this approach is that at-home training can be easily scaled up for widespread inexpensive independent use and can be refreshed regularly over time. While there is evidence that cognitive skills can be successfully trained in older adults, important remaining questions are whether this cognitive enhancement has value beyond specific training with transfer to other practical function and ultimately to long-term cognitive resilience and lowered risk of dementia. We aim to examine these questions and will provide data for future exploration of mechanisms of long-term change in risk of dementia including biomarker and lifestyle predictors of treatment response.