Video game training enhances cognitive control in older adults

Nature cover 2013 - NeuroRacer

Based on our research characterizing top-down modulation deficit in older adults, we designed a therapeutic intervention for these individuals to try and address these observed deficiencies. These efforts led to the creation of a custom-designed three-dimensional video game (NeuroRacer) that requires participants to perform a perceptual discrimination task and visuomotor adaptation task both by themselves as well as simultaneously (that is, multitasking).
NeuroRacer - video game

NeuroRacer - multitasking training We first had ~180 participants across the adult lifespan play and observed linear age-related declined in multitasking abilities. In a second experiment, older adults who played an adaptive version of NeuroRacer in multitasking training mode for a month showed reduced multitasking costs compared to individuals who played NeuroRacer in a 'single task' training mode as well as individuals who did not do anything.

Neuroracer - Midline frontal thetaFurthermore, age-related deficits in neural signatures of cognitive control, as measured with electroencephalography, were remediated by multitasking training (enhanced midline frontal theta power and frontal-posterior theta coherence). Critically, this training resulted in performance benefits that extended to untrained cognitive control abilities (enhanced sustained attention and working memory), with an increase in midline frontal theta power predicting the training- induced boost in sustained attention and preservation of multitasking improvement six month later.

These findings highlight the robust plasticity of the prefrontal cognitive control system in the ageing brain, and provide the evidence of how a custom-designed video game can be used to assess cognitive abilities across the lifespan, evaluate underlying neural mechanisms, and serve as a powerful tool for cognitive enhancement.

Media coverage
  • How do I buy NeuroRacer?
    NeuroRacer is not commercially available. We do not have any plans of release NeuroRacer to the public because it was developed as a research tool and not a consumer product.
  • Where can I find something like NeuroRacer?
    A company Adam Gazzaley co-founded, Akili Interactive Labs (, is now developing a clinical product in the form of a mobile video game (“Project: EVO”) that is based on the technology behind NeuroRacer. The company is currently running clinical trials which will validate the utility of the new game for use in specific populations. Until those trials are complete, the game will not be available to the general public. We suggest that you go to the Akili website for further news or additional inquiries.
  • Why did you publish on how NeuroRacer helps the brain and then won't release the game?
    NeuroRacer was developed by our team over many years with the goal of creating a finely-tuned research instrument. Using NeuroRacer we have now shown scientific evidence of how plastic the brain is in older age, and demonstrated that video games can be a powerful tool to harness brain plasticity. We hope this motivates developers, scientists and businesses to develop and carefully validate video games for impact and then translate them into products.
  • Do these studies results mean that any video game could improve my cognitive?
    No, our study results do not suggest that any video game will improve cognition. NeuroRacer was developed by a team of neuroscientists and was specifically targeted at training cognitive control abilities, which commercial video games are not necessarily designed to do.
  • Do I have to be in San Francisco to participate in Gazzaley Lab studies?
    The majority of our studies are held in our lab at University of California, San Francisco. In the future we intend to conduct experiments that are completely mobile and don't require any in lab visits. These would be studies anyone across the world could participate in.
  • How do I participate in Gazzaley Lab studies?
    Visit our Participate page to learn more about our research and how you can participate.

We are so grateful for your interest in NeuroRacer and our studies! Please feel free to email with any additional questions!