Despite its reputation, the immensely popular online role-playing game World of Warcraft isn't just the domain of kids and guys in their 30s who live in their parents' basements. In fact, some researchers from North Carolina State University have found that when older adults play WoW, it can actually boost their brain functionality.

Using a group of volunteers between 60 and 77 years old, researchers tested their spatial ability, memory and attention-focus capabilities both before and after playing WoW for about 14 hours over a two-week period.

Dr. Anne McLaughlin, an assistant professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of a paper on the study, says that while there were no improvements in memory, the group who'd scored low on the initial baseline tests and played WoW had "significant improvement in both spatial ability and focus."

So why was Wow used instead of, say, Angry Birds? “We chose World of Warcraft because it has attributes we felt may produce benefits – it is a cognitively challenging game in a socially interactive environment that presents users with novel situations,” said Dr. McLaughlin.

Bottom line: if you're a WoW player, maybe it's time to sign your grandparents up for an account too.

[via Newswise]