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World of Warcraft: Can it make you smarter?

Playing World of Warcraft increases cognitive ability in the elderly, according to a new study.
Wow 2012 02 29Enlarge
Employees of an event company dressed as characters from the 'World of Warcraft' video games, themselves also gaming enthusiasts, ham it up for observing media as they scoop up the new 'World of Warcraft: Cataclysm' game shortly after midnight at the game's sales premiere at MediaMarkt on December 7, 2010 in Berlin, Germany. (Sean Gallup/AFP/Getty Images)

World of Warcraft, the world’s most popular online multiplayer roleplaying game, gets a lot of negative press. Psychiatrists have argued that an addiction to WoW can take over one’s life just as quickly and severely as a drug addiction. A study undertaken at Brigham Young University concluded that playing WoW is detrimental to the health of marriages.

But in spite of all the hate surrounding the game, a new study has found that there is at least one good thing about WoW — it makes old people smarter.

Published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, the study, authored by North Carolina State University psychology professors Anne McLaughlin and Jason Allaire, found that after two weeks of playing WoW, participants that scored low in a baseline test showed significant improvement in both spatial ability and focus. 

“Improvements on a measure of attention were found for the intervention group compared to controls. Furthermore, for the intervention group only, initial ability scores predicted improvements on both tests of attention and spatial orientation. These results suggest cognitive training may be more effective for those initially lower in ability,” the study said. 

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the researchers stated that the level of complexity in WoW led them to choose the game for the test. 

"It met a bunch of criteria we had," Allaire told paper. "Primarily that it is really engaging and cognitively complex, so we chose a game that we thought would have the best chance of exercising older adults' cognitive abilities and thereby improving them."

So the next time you find yourself stuck at grandma’s house, open up your laptop and introduce her to the world of Azeroth — for health’s sake.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-grid/world-of-warcraft-elderly-study-intelligence