And you thought only  the young could benefit playing World of Warcraft. New research shows that having a parent or grandparent playing the game can actually boost cognitive functioning in older adults.

"One day I had my grandma play WoW with me, and after two hours she told me she had to take a nap, because she hadn't had to think that hard in a very long time," explained psychologist Jason Allaire, co-author on a recently published paper describing the findings.

"So I thought, why don't we try to find a way to harness something like this so we can improve cognitive function?"

Allaire and his colleagues Laura Whitlock and Anne McLaughlin did just that and they started to recruit 39 volunteers between the ages of 60 and 77 to test their performance across the platform like cognitive skills, and focus and spatial reasoning.

Test participants were divided into two groups and had WoW installed on their home computers and were asked to put in at least one hour of gameplay a day over the course of two weeks before they tested their cognitive skills again. Members of the control group, were retested in two weeks as well but they did not play WoW.

The result? The group which played WoW saw a greater increase in cognitive performance than the control group.

Allaire and McLaughlin are co-directors of North Carolina State's Gains Through Gaming Laboratory. In 2009, the two received a million-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation to study how video games might improve cognitive abilities in the elderly.

"We had two or three participants who asked if they could keep the game, and as far as we know they've kept playing," explained Allaire. "Most people gave us really good feedback." He continues:

Older adults do like to play video games, and with baby boomers all turning 65 and older in the next ten years, we're soon going to have more people over the age of 65 than under 20. Older adults belong to a demographic that video game companies often overlook, but our research shows that they will play the game, that they're interested in the games, and that they can benefit from them, as well... even in just a couple weeks' time.

Video games get such a bad rap. Just go online and you'll find [a lot of forums saying] Warcraft is addicting, that games ruin marriages, or that they're rife with violence — but this study reveals that there is a measurably beneficial aspect to games, as well. We hope our findings help people see them in that light.

The researchers' findings are published in the latest issue of Computers in Human Behavior.