UCSF scientist bringing games to Israel BrainTech

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A UCSF neuroscientist will speak about his success using video games to help seniors at an upcoming brain technology conference in Israel.

Dr. Adam Gazzaley

Dr. Adam Gazzaley has shown that playing specially designed video games can improve the core cognitive function of participants. A world-renowned leader in his field, he will discuss his research and new games under development in the closing keynote speech of BrainTech 2015, a two-day conference scheduled for next week in Tel Aviv.

The second BrainTech — the first was held in 2013 — is being organized by the nonprofit Israel Brain Technologies. Avi Hasson, the chief scientist of Israel’s Ministry of Economy, will be giving the opening keynote, to be followed by a talk by former Israeli President Shimon Peres.

The conference will bring together neuroscientists, entrepreneurs, investors and government leaders from around the world to explore innovation in brain technology.

“It will be exciting to really immerse myself in the culture and see what is going on there and see how new collaborators to my lab can be formed,” said Gazzaley, the director of neuroscience imaging at UCSF.

Speaking about his work, he said: “We design our games in such a way that they challenge processes that we are trying to improve. We use an activity to constantly challenge those activities to harness the plasticity of the brain so they improve over time.”

The games Gazzaley has developed require the player to steer a car down a curvy road or a boat down a windy river while also doing other tasks, such as tapping fish that pop out of the water, but only if they’re a certain color. Becoming more difficult as the player improves, the games are intended to create multi-tasking challenges in order to stimulate different mental abilities at once.

Gazzaley’s research has shown that seniors who regularly play these games experience improvements in cognitive control — in areas such as attention, memory and goal management — which helps them successfully interact within their environments.

He said he was inspired by research on young adults who played video games that involve shooting and combat from the perspective of the player; they were found to have a higher level of cognitive control than their peers.

Gazzaley, who serves on the board of ElMindA, an Israeli brain imaging company, will also speak at Bar-Ilan University during his trip.

Drew Himmelstein
Drew Himmelstein

Drew Himmelstein is a former J. reporter who writes about education, families and Jewish life. She lives with her husband and two sons.