Bingo’s Visual Element Aiding Research into Perception Difficulties

A popular activity amongst the elderly, bingo has gained a much younger, wider audience in recent years with the boom in online bingo games at sites like Jackpotjoy. It’s often used in care homes and senior citizen centres as a social activity, with the social aspect helping to keep brains more active and healthy.

While bingo’s ability to boost memory capacity, mental speed and social skills has been studied in the past, researchers from several top US universities now hope that the visual aspects of the game will aid their studies into the cognitive difficulties and visual perception problems caused by Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers from Case Western Reserve University, Boston University and Bridgewater State University have already found that high-contrast, large bingo cards boost thinking and playing skills for people suffering from these cognitive disorders.

In their paper, Bingo! Externally supported performance intervention for deficit visual search in normal aging, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, published in the journal Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, the researchers found that bingo improved cognitive performance in both healthy individuals and those afflicted by Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The study suggests that the visual support of games such as bingo could prove to be an easy-to-apply intervention in cases where cognitive problems begin to appear.

Recent research by Southampton University has also shown that bingo, whether played offline or at sites like Jackpotjoy, is far from a mindless game. In fact, it enhances memory capacity, reflexes and mental speed, even in the elderly, with elderly players often outperforming younger non-bingo players in memory tests.

Players in the Case Western cognitive study took part in test games via on-screen computer-generated cards, just as you would at sites like Jackpotjoy. This allowed the researchers to manipulate the size, brightness and colour of cards used in order to study their varying effects on cognitive ability and visual perception.

Our sensitivity to perceive contrasts begins to deteriorate as we age, and it is a condition exacerbated in people suffering from dementia. At the moment, little is known about how visual perception problems—common in aging offline and online Jackpotjoy-style players—affect the way these players think and play, and the study has set out to address.

Just as online bingo sites like Jackpotjoy allow players to customise their playing atmosphere, the researchers customised bingo cards in terms of size, brightness, colour and contrast on the tests carried out across a group ranging in mental ability, among them young healthy adults, those with mild dementia, and those with varying degrees of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

By comparing how well the range of participants fared with a range of cards of varying appearance, they were able to report that changes to the contrast and size of cards led to improvements in the performance of some participants. Those suffering from mild dementia were able to perform at levels of their healthy peers, while little change was reported for people with more severe dementia.

Research into visual sensory deficits and cognition among people with dementia has already helped to pinpoint that contrast is important for sufferers. Those with Parkinson’s disease and other forms of dementia lose their ability to distinguish between similar-contrast objects, so by increasing contrast in their living environment – placing a dark sofa in white room for example, can help sufferers navigate their way around their environments more safely.

So those playing at their local bingo hall or at sites like Jackpotjoy aren’t just taking part in a fun pastime. The game they love is not only helping medical researchers better understand cognitive disorder and research into treatments for these disorders, the game itself could actually help to alleviate and delay the onset of these disorders too.

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