Enhancing brain and cognition in the older workers

The ageing of the population is pushing European Member States to support later retirement of their citizens. Ageing produces declines in a series of sensory, cognitive, and motor domains. The failure of these basic functions predicts difficulties in the performance of daily-living activities and diminishes ageing workers productivity.

Brain imaging methods have shown that the most affected brain areas are the lateral prefrontal cortex, the cerebellum, and the medial temporal lobe system plus the hippocampus. No changes or just minimal shrink occurs in the occipital cortex. As a consequence of these brain changes, important declines occur in different perceptual and cognitive functions such as peripheral vision and dynamic visual acuity, processing speed, attention, working memory, executive functions, and episodic memory. In contrast, world knowledge, verbal abilities, (Figure 1) and implicit (involuntary) memory are maintained or just minimally affected not only in healthy older adults (OA) but also in some clinical populations.

figure 1

Figure 1. Measures of speed of processing, working memory, and long-term memory decline with ageing. In contrast, world knowledge1 and implicit memory are speared2.

Cognitive decline and functional/structural neuroplasticity in older adults are contingent on individual behaviour and might be modified by interventions specifically designed to delay and/or prevent functional loses due to age-related cognitive impairments. The human brain conserves certain degree of plasticity even at an advanced age and that functional brain reorganization allows older adults to adapt to age-related cerebral changes to maintain successful task performance.

The practice of physical activity and training cognition with serious games practiced in a social environment are effective tools for improving performance.

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Figure 2. A selection of possible components of interventions for enhancing healthy brain aging: Cognitive training and physical activity embedded in a social environment depending on biological factors3.

Serious games are useful tools, but it is crucial that these games attract the interest of the older users. They prefer games that involve mental challenge instead of fast-moving action games. Video games include images, movement, sound, and feedback. All these features are more attractive and rewarding than just printing materials. It is crucial that the generated serious games attract the interest of the users in order to motivate them to playing the games and keep training.

The main objective of the serious games developed in sustAGE is to maintain and/or improve these cognitive functions that decline most with ageing. sustAGE users are going to play the following serious games:

Serious GamesCognitive Functions
Find-itProcessing speed, enhance selective attention and to bound perceptual features into an integrated object
Match-itVisuospatial short-term memory and enhance working memory
Get your bearingsProcessing speed, active scan search, detection/recognition of targets in the presence of noise and response inhibition
Creative sequencesProcessing speed, working memory and fluid intelligence
Crazy matrixProcessing speed, short term memory and visuospatial reasoning
Grab and dashProcessing speed, planning, visuospatial reasoning, motor skills and dual – tasking

sustAGE has developed a conceptual personalized and acceptable recommendation system for guiding the generation of scientifically grounded and context-sensitive, personalized interventions. If you wanted to know future developments and advances of sustAGE in the automotive industry and port operations, keep tuned.

  1. Park, D. C., Davidson, L., Lautenschlager, G., Smith, A. D., Smith, P., Hedden, T. (2002). Models of visuo-spatial and verbal memory across the adult lifespan. Psychology and Aging, 17, 299-320.
  2. Ballesteros, S., Bischof, G. N., Goh, J. O., & Park, D. C. (2013). Neural correlates of conceptual object priming in young and older adults: An event-related fMRI study. Neurobiology of Aging, 34, 1254-1264.
  3. Ballesteros, S., Kraft, E., Santana, S., & Tziraki, C. (2015). Maintaining older brain functionality: A targeted review. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 55. 453-477.