Elixer of youth or plain old snake oil?

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How quickly can you solve 20 simple math problems? Draw a picture of Africa? Read a book page aloud?

It could mean the difference between a 20-year-old and a 70-year-old brain score in Nintendo's Japanese hit coming to America in April, "Brain Age." A good marketing gimmick, but will it really keep your brain sharp?

Anecdotally, maybe. Empirically, not yet. The good news is there seems to be a definite link between an active cognitive lifestyle and good mental health; the problem is no one knows why. What researchers are trying to find out is whether the link is caused by self-selection, physiological differences or simply better coping mechanisms.

A variety of testing is being done with video games not just on senior citizens but also on kids with attention deficit disorder and autism and on people with brain injuries.

"Our project exists because of these [possibilities]," said Ben Sawyer, co-founder of the Games for Health Project. "It's not about the redemption of the gaming industry, but about the promise of this technology."

While he admits the jury is still at least 10 years out, the promise is alluring for both the afflicted and the companies who could serve them. "We predict that this will be a $100 million market, if it isn't already, in the next two to five years," Mr. Sawyer said. "That's because the market for it is already ahead of the consensus science."
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