Jessica Fleck, associate professor of psychology at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, is confident playing video games can help older people improve mental function. Now the cognitive neuropsychologist is trying to determine which games make the most positive changes in older brains.

Since May she and Christine Gayda, visiting assistant professor of psychology with a practice in Smithville, have been running an experiment with the help of six top students. For five weeks about 60 local senior citizens are coming to Stockton two days per week to play video games for an hour. The oldest is 87, she said.

They don’t play shooting games, but games focused on spatial ability, memory and vocabulary, Fleck said. Some are available free, and some are expensive and marketed as brain enhancers.

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“Everyone is playing within their set collection of games,” Fleck said. She wants to find out which collections are most effective, and plans future studies.

She and Gayda pre-tested the group for cognitive strengths and weaknesses, and will conduct post testing in August. Students oversee the games. They are 2012 graduate Alisha Coleman, of Bridgeton; and seniors Molly Cullerton, of Pine Beach, Ocean County; Kate McGinley, of North Wildwood; Emily Moench, of Stafford Township; Jamie Perkins, of Cape May; and Bergen County’s Antonio Petruzzella and Raymond Nguyen.

Fleck didn’t discover her field until her senior year at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, when she enrolled by chance in a cognitive psychology course, and loved everything about it, she said. She earned her PhD from Temple University in 2004 and has been at Stockton since 2006.

She commutes from Kinternsville, Pa., and has a 2-year-old son, William, with her husband, Bill Raymond, a grocery store department manager. Contact her at 609-626-3489.

Galloway scholarship winner

Absegami graduate Jenna Sterling, of Galloway Township, has received one of four $10,000 scholarships given by Local 825 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, the organization said. The stand-out varsity girls crew member will attend Old Dominion University to study Speech Pathology and Audiology.

Scotland internship

Christine Harvey, a second-year graduate student in the master of science in computational science program at Stockton, was selected for a summer research internship at the University of Edinburgh's Parallel Computing Centre in Scotland, a world leader in computational science.


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