A Systematic Review on the Cognitive Benefits and Neurophysiological Correlates of Exergaming in Healthy Older Adults

J Clin Med. 2019 May 23;8(5):734. doi: 10.3390/jcm8050734.


Human aging is associated with structural and functional brain deteriorations and a corresponding cognitive decline. Exergaming (i.e., physically active video-gaming) has been supposed to attenuate age-related brain deteriorations and may even improve cognitive functions in healthy older adults. Effects of exergaming, however, vary largely across studies. Moreover, the underlying neurophysiological mechanisms by which exergaming may affect cognitive and brain function are still poorly understood. Therefore, we systematically reviewed the effects of exergame interventions on cognitive outcomes and neurophysiological correlates in healthy older adults (>60 years). After screening 2709 studies (Cochrane Library, PsycINFO, Pubmed, Scopus), we found 15 eligible studies, four of which comprised neurophysiological measures. Most studies reported within group improvements in exergamers and favorable interaction effects compared to passive controls. Fewer studies found superior effects of exergaming over physically active control groups and, if so, solely for executive functions. Regarding individual cognitive domains, results showed no consistence. Positive effects on neurophysiological outcomes were present in all respective studies. In summary, exergaming seems to be equally or slightly more effective than other physical interventions on cognitive functions in healthy older adults. Tailored interventions using well-considered exergames and intervention designs, however, may result in more distinct effects on cognitive functions.

Keywords: aging; cognitive functions; exergaming, exercise; healthy older adults; neurophysiological correlates.

Publication types

  • Review