Today’s Headlines: Video Games, Sleep and Adult Drug Use

Video games may improve brain power in older adults: Older adults wanting to keep their brains sharp may want to take a lesson in gaming from youngsters. A new study shows that healthy people ages 60 to 79 “got better at multitasking, paying attention in dull situations and remembering things short-term” after playing a specially-designed videogame called NeuroRacer on at laptop at home for 12 hours. Even better, “the improvements were still evident six months later, and they extended beyond the skills learned for the game.” (USA Today)

Sleep ‘boosts brain cell numbers’: A new study may shed some light on why we need sleep. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have found that “sleep ramps up the production of cells that go on to make an insulating material known as myelin which protects our brain’s circuitry.” The production rate of these cells, called oligodendrocytes, doubled while mice slept. This discovery “could lead to insights about sleep’s role in brain repair and growth” as well as help researchers understand multiple sclerosis, a disease characterized by the loss of myelin. (BBC News)

Drug use drops for America’s youth, rises in the over 50 crowd: Illicit drug use by older adults has jumped sharply, a recent government survey shows. While rates of drug use in children and teenagers dropped 2.1 percent over the past decade, “illicit drug use among adults 50 to 54 has more than doubled since 2002, reaching 7.2 percent last year.” For adults 55 to 59, such drug use has more than tripled. “Marijuana is by far the most-used illicit drug among both children and adults according to SAMHSA, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services.” (ABC News)