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Playing video games can reverse cognitive decline: study

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Playing videogames can prevent and even reverse deteriorating brain functions such as memory, reasoning and visual processing, according to a study released Wednesday.

The University of Iowa study of hundreds of people age 50 and older found that those who played a videogame were able to improve a range of cognitive skills, and reverse up to seven years of age-related declines.

“We know that we can stop this decline and actually restore cognitive processing speed to people,” said Fredric Wolinsky, a University of Iowa professor of public health and lead author of the paper published in the journal PLOS One.

“So, if we know that, shouldn’t we be helping people? It’s fairly easy, and older folks can go get the training game and play it.”

The study is the latest in a series of research projects examining why people, as they age, lose “executive function” of the brain, which is needed for memory, attention, perception and problem solving.

Wolinsky and colleagues separated 681 generally healthy patients in Iowa into four groups. Each of those was split into segments with people 50 to 64 years of age and those over age 65.

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One group was given computerized crossword puzzles, while three other groups were asked to play a videogame called “Road Tour,” which revolves around identifying a type of vehicle displayed fleetingly on a license plate.

Participants were asked to re-identify the vehicle type and match it with a road sign displayed from a circular array of possibilities.

The player must succeed at least three out of every four tries to advance to the next level, which speeds up the vehicle identification and adds more distractions.

“The game starts off with an assessment to determine your current speed of processing. Whatever it is, the training can help you get about 70 percent faster,” Wolinsky said.

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The groups that played the game at least 10 hours, either at home or in a lab at the university, gained at least three years of cognitive improvement when tested after one year.

A group that got four additional hours of training with the game did even better, improving their cognitive abilities by four years, according to the study.

“We not only prevented the decline (in cognitive abilities), we actually sped them up,” Wolinsky said.

The key appeared to lie in improving the brain’s processing speed, which can also widen one’s field of view.

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“As we get older, our visual field collapses on us,” Wolinsky explained. “We get tunnel vision. It’s a normal functioning of aging. This helps to explain why most accidents happen at intersections because older folks are looking straight ahead and are less aware of peripherals.”

The study builds on research begun in the 1990s on efforts to improve memory, reasoning and visual processing speed.

The researchers found those who played “Road Tour” scored far better than the crossword puzzle group in functions such as concentration, nimbleness with shifting from one mental task to another and the speed at which new information is processed.

The improvement ranged from 1.5 years to nearly seven years in cognitive improvement, the study found.

“It’s the ‘use it or lose it’ phenomenon,” Wolinsky said. “Age-related cognitive decline is real, it’s happening and it starts earlier and then continues steadily. The good news is we can do something about it.”

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GOP leaders in open warfare with Trump’s White House as another government shutdown looms

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According to a report in the Washington Post, GOP leaders are at an impasse with the White House on future budget concerns as President Donald Trump's chief of staff -- which is leading to fears of another government shutdown.

The report states, "GOP leaders have spent months cajoling President Trump in favor of a bipartisan budget deal that would fund the government and raise the limit on federal borrowing this fall, but their efforts have yet to produce a deal."

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Trump Twitter-snarls at ‘Impeachment Day’ protesters as the product of ‘Radical Left Democrats’

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President Donald Trump lashed out at Impeachment Day protesters on Twitter on Sunday morning, downplaying their efforts after seeing a report on Fox News.

Taking to Twitter the president wrote, "Yesterday was the Radical Left Democrats big Impeachment day. They worked so hard to make it something really big and special but had one problem - almost nobody showed up. “The Media admits low turnout for anti-Trump rallies ...saying enough. Democrat voters want to hear the politicians talking about issues. This is a huge distraction and will only help Donald Trump get elected. 'Greatest President since Ronald Reagan' said a counter-protester. LehighValleyLive."

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Trump’s first term: hits and misses

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"Promises made, promises kept," goes one of President Donald Trump's main 2020 reelection slogans. Is that true?

Here are some of the key policy hits and misses -- comparing his accomplishments to his promises -- from a tumultuous first term.

- HITS -

Economy:

The economy will be Trump's major selling point.

GDP grew 3.1 percent in the first quarter of 2019 and the last recession was a decade ago. Unemployment is at a 50-year low of 3.6 percent.

Trump's frequent claim that the economy is probably "the best" in US history is an exaggeration, though.

Economists see growing dangers, including exploding government debt and growing backlash from Trump's aggressive trade policies, especially with China.

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