Gaming for memory benefits

HOUSTON – Everyone has their own idea of how to stay fit. It could be a run or a walk in the park to lifting your own body weight. But what about your mental health for the long term?

For Bob Bunoza, staying fit is not for the birds. If you ever visit Memorial Park, you might have seen Bunoza feeding the birds, right out of his hands. 

"I do walk a little. Push-ups, sit ups and stuff. Mainly play with the birds. They keep me pretty much on my mind and the right place," he said.

For Bunoza, fitness is a lifetime commitment. For his mental fitness, he relies on his beloved birds, spending time at the park and focusing on his thoughts. 

"Try not to think about problems. Just stay positive," Bunoza said.

But research shows you could use video games to shoot, fight and lift your way to improved cognitive health later in life.

"The research indicates that action games, shooters in particular, are most effective," Patrick Cox said. 

Cox is the editor of the Transformational Technology Alert. 

"Video games, we just know, is one of the best ways to increase the strength of your brain. It actually fights dementia," Cox said.

He said videogames put you in situations that you would never want to experience firsthand. 

"These involve your entire body. You have to react physically to real threats which feel emotional. I don't think it's surprising that it has such an impact on your overall skill set," Cox said.

"It has to be the right kind of game and under the right circumstances," licensed professional counselor Dr. Emily Deayala said.

She said there are benefits to playing videogames if you do not take it too far.  

"Like anything, it can actually suck you in and before you realize, hours have gone by," Deayala said.

University of Houston adjunct professor of Digital Media Karen Snyder said doctors can now prescribed video games to diagnose things like concussions. 

"It's a digital prescription, which might sound funny, but it works. So they actually have games that are in works right now that will be classified as digital prescriptions with known facets," Snyder said.

It is a prescription available online and not in the pharmacy line. These are ways you could game your way to a healthier reality now or later in life.  

Organizers are planning a healthcare game showdown for 2019 in the Texas Medical Center. Students would come to Houston to create games that would help solve health problems.