A growing body of research suggests that playing commercially available digital games (CADGS) improves specific cognitive abilities in young (Green &Bavelier, 2003, 2007) and older adults (Basak, Boot, Vass, &Kramer, 2008;Whitlock, McLaughlin, &Allaire, 2012). However, due to a lack of control over the content, the underlying mechanisms responsible for gains in cognition are not clear. Recently researchers (Basak et al., 2008) have suggested that CADGS provide an opportunity for Variable Priority Training (VPT;Kramer, Larish, Weber, &Bardell, 1999) and that VPT is the mechanism responsible for gains. Research explicitly examining VPT in digital games has been limited, but the few VPT-digital game studies have reported significant although not robust cognitive benefits (Lee, Boot, Basak, et al., 2012).The absence of transfer effects to executive control is perhaps due to the singular reliance by previous studies on the game Space Fortress. The subtasks of Space Fortress draw upon a limited number of cognitive abilities, which in a VPT approach, might not tax the attentional demands of the executive system enough to produce training gains. Therefore, the goal of this intervention study is to combine the dynamic complexity of CADGS with the experimental control of previous VPT-digital game studies by utilizing the powerful "game editor" included in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty to test a VPT-digital game intervention focused on multiple cognitive abilities.
The goal of the proposed exploratory R-21 is to determine the extent to which a video game intervention that incorporates variable priority training can improve the cognitive functioning of older adults.