No Overt Effects of a 6-Week Exergame Training on Sensorimotor and Cognitive Function in Older Adults. A Preliminary Investigation.Front Hum Neurosci. 2017; 11:160.FH
Several studies investigating the relationship between physical activity and cognition showed that exercise interventions might have beneficial effects on working memory, executive functions as well as motor fitness in old adults. Recently, movement based video games (exergames) have been introduced to have the capability to improve cognitive function in older adults. Healthy aging is associated with a loss of cognitive, as well as sensorimotor functions. During exergaming, participants are required to perform physical activities while being simultaneously surrounded by a cognitively challenging environment. However, only little is known about the impact of exergame training interventions on a broad range of motor, sensory, and cognitive skills. Therefore, the present study aims at investigating the effects of an exergame training over 6 weeks on cognitive, motor, and sensory functions in healthy old participants. For this purpose, 30 neurologically healthy older adults were randomly assigned to either an experimental (ETG, n = 15, 1 h training, twice a week) or a control group (NTG, n = 15, no training). Several cognitive tests were performed before and after exergaming in order to capture potential training-induced effects on processing speed as well as on executive functions. To measure the impact of exergaming on sensorimotor performance, a test battery consisting of pinch and grip force of the hand, tactile acuity, eye-hand coordination, flexibility, reaction time, coordination, and static balance were additionally performed. While we observed significant improvements in the trained exergame (mainly in tasks that required a high load of coordinative abilities), these gains did not result in differential performance improvements when comparing ETG and NTG. The only exergaming-induced difference was a superior behavioral gain in fine motor skills of the left hand in ETG compared to NTG. In an exploratory analysis, within-group comparison revealed improvements in sensorimotor and cognitive tasks (ETG) while NTG only showed an improvement in a static balance test. Taken together, the present study indicates that even though exergames might improve gaming performance, our behavioral assessment was probably not sensitive enough to capture exergaming-induced improvements. Hence, we suggest to use more tailored outcome measures in future studies to assess potential exergaming-induced changes.