What's more, by monitoring brain waves with EEG, Gazzaley and his colleagues found evidence of cognitive ability improvements in the prefrontal cortex from before and after training.
"It really shows that this brain change, this brain activity change that occurs with training is really related to this cognitive control ability that you can see translated into their behavior," he said.
The study is "interesting" and mostly "well designed," but "the population studied here is quite small, and more research is needed," said Heather Snyder, director of scientific operations at the Alzheimer's Association, in an e-mail. "In order to be considered credible, these findings need to be replicated/confirmed, and also demonstrated in larger and more diverse populations."
The study is not directly relatable to commercial video games, Gazzaley said. The game used in this study is a highly customized, interactive environment, created specifically for the purpose of training certain cognitive skills.
"The study has no immediate implications for current medical practice," Snyder said. "And, no one should start playing video games expecting that they will enhance their cognitive abilities."
Researchers have already begun to design tailored video games for other populations with neural deficits, such as individuals with attention deficit disorder. Gazzaley and colleagues are working on four other therapeutic video games.
With NeuroRacer, they're looking at how other groups such as individuals with depression and children with ADHD would respond. A Boston-based company is working on developing a mobile version of this game that will go through further validation studies, to see if it could become a therapeutic tool in different populations.
As in the game, researchers have a long road ahead.
More: How mobile tech can influence our brain