Computer games may help elderly battle depression
Computer games might be an effective way to treat depression in the elderly, particularly those who have not responded to antidepressants and other treatments, according to new research.
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College found that certain computer games were just as effective at reducing symptoms of depression as the antidepressant drug escitalopram (Lexapro). And the patients playing the video games achieved results in four weeks, compared to the 12 weeks it often takes with escitalopram.
The study consisted of 11 older patients between the ages of 60 and 89, who had major depression and failed to show improvement with antidepressant drugs. The participants played computer games for 30 hours over the course of four weeks. One computer game involved balls moving on the screen, and patients had to press a button when the balls changed color. This helped test for attention and accuracy. Another game involved rearranging multiple word lists into categories, which helped test speed and accuracy. Both games increased in difficulty based on how well the patients did.
The findings showed that the computer games improved executive functions even more than the drug did. These functions include thinking skills used in planning and organizing behavior, an impairment has been linked specifically to depression in elderly patients. Researchers say that treating executive dysfunction could help people recover from depression and the computer games could be used in combination with antidepressant drugs. In addition, they said, the games may be able to help people with other mental disorders.