Brain Training To Improve Driving Skills With Video Games For Teens And Older Adults

Last month at an MIT event in Northern California, we discussed specific applications that could take computer-assisted brain training to a new level and highlighted the potential to test and improve driving skills.

Assessing and improving driving skills would be a front-runner given both the clearly defined need and the emergence of programs with increasing evidence (both scientific and practical) behind it.

With that in mind, The New York Times just published an article entitled “Are You a Good Driver? Here’s How to Find Out. A few quotes:

– “COULD a video game make you a better driver? More importantly, could computer software prevent teenagers from making fatal mistakes, or even weed out older drivers whose weaknesses make them accident-prone?”

– “There are already programs like AAA’s Roadwise Review (about $15) to help older people evaluate their driving.”

– “There are other programs that test mental agility and then use computer training sessions to improve a driver’s skills. One such program is an online application called DriveFit ($89), developed by CogniFit, an Israeli company specializing in cognitive training. DriveFit uses vision and memory tests to measure 12 driving-related cognitive abilities.”

A question we’re often asked when speaking to insurance companies, “So can we really train drivers to be smarter behind the wheel?” Well, it depends on what “smarter” means (we’re not aware of any brain training programs , designed to encourage drivers to avoid alcohol or sleep-inducing drugs before driving), but there is mounting evidence that certain cognitive skills important to driving can, in fact, be trained, leading to better ones driving results.

An important research reference: the published studies by Dr. Karlene Ball and Dr. Jerry Edwards. We were fortunate to recently have Dr. Edwards, and that’s what she had to say when I asked her to explain the findings of her 2003 Human Factors article (Roenker, D., Cissell, G., Ball, K., Wadley, V., & Edwards , J. (2003. Processing speed and driving simulator training result in improved driving performance. Human Factors, 45: 218-233):

– “Our goal was to train the so-called “Useful Field of View”. Useful FOV is a measure of processing speed and visual attention critical to driving performance, and one of the areas that declines with age. It has already been shown that this skill can be improved with training. So we wanted to see what impact this would have on driving performance in older adults and whether the training would be more or less effective than a traditional driving simulation course.

– For the study, we divided forty-eight adults over the age of fifty-five into two intervention groups of twenty-four people each. Each group received twenty hours of training. A group was exposed to a conventional driving simulator in which they learned specific driving behavior. The other went through the cognitive training program.

– The driving performance of both groups improved immediately after their respective programs, but most of the driving simulator benefits disappeared by the 18th month.

– The processing speed intervention not only helped participants improve “useful field of view,” the skill that was trained directly, but it was also transferred to real-life driving, and the results were sustained at 18 months. Incidentally, the rating was as real as can be imagined: a 14-mile open-road rating.

– Faster processing speed appeared to allow adults to be more responsive to unexpected events that require a quick response, and increased the number of dangerous maneuvers on real roads (defined as those that required the instructor to intervene during assessment) by 40% to reduce ).”

Note: The program used in this study, called Visual Awareness, was recently acquired by Posit Science Corporation.

In short, most likely I would answer YES to the question that opened the New York Times article. A well designed video game CAN make you a better driver.

Of course, this is an emerging area, and much more research needs to be done before applications become mainstream, but the area certainly deserves more attention, research funding, and commitment from insurance companies to design and conduct real-world studies.

Allstate: How about spending just a fraction of your advertising campaign budget researching additional potential solutions?

Copyright (c) 2008 Sharp Brains

Thanks to Alvaro Fernandez | #Brain #Training #Improve #Driving #Skills #Video #Games #Teens #Older #Adults

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