Tags: Alzheimer's/Dementia | daily | crosswords | puzzles | sharper | aging | brain

Daily Crosswords Linked to Sharper Brain

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By    |   Monday, 17 Jul 2017 11:05 AM

People who regularly report doing word puzzles such as crosswords as they age have sharper brains that function equivalent to 10 years younger than their biological age.

Experts at the U.K.'s University of Exeter Medical School and Kings College London analyzed data from more than 17,000 healthy people aged 50 and over, submitted in an online trial.

Participants reported how often they played word puzzles. The researchers then used tests from the CogTrackTM and PROTECT online cognitive test systems to assess core aspects of brain function.

They found that the more often participants worked word puzzles, the better they performed on tasks assessing attention, reasoning, and memory. In fact, on tests of grammatical reasoning speed and short term memory accuracy, their brains function as if they were 10 years younger.

"We found direct relationships between the frequency of word puzzle use and the speed and accuracy of performance on nine cognitive tasks assessing a range of aspects of function including attention, reasoning and memory," said Keith Wesnes, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Exeter Medical School.

"Performance was consistently better in those who reported engaging in puzzles, and generally improved incrementally with the frequency of puzzle use," he continued. "For example, on test measures of grammatical reasoning speed and short-term memory accuracy, performing word puzzles was associated with an age-related reduction of around 10 years."

Wesnes hopes to follow his results, which were presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) 2017, with a clinical trial.

"We know that many of the factors involved in dementia are preventable," said Clive Ballard, Professor of Age-Related Diseases at the University of Exeter Medical School. "It is essential that we find out what lifestyle factors really make a difference to helping people maintain healthy brains to stop the soaring rise of the disease.

"We can't yet say that crosswords give you a sharper brain — the next step is to assess whether encouraging people to start playing word games regularly could actually improve their brain function."

Many experts believe that an active brain continues to produce new connections between nerve cells. Play Scrabble, learn a foreign language, do crossword puzzles, read, or learn a new hobby — all will stretch your brain power.

One study found that playing video games is even better than puzzles at slowing the mental decline that accompanies aging. Researchers at the University of Iowa tested healthy people over the age of 65 with a video game aimed at increasing their mental speed and agility.

One year later, tests showed that those who had played the game for 10 hours or more gained at least three years of cognitive improvement. Those who had an extra four hours of training with the game improved an additional four years for an overall total of seven years. When compared to a control group that was given computerized crossword puzzles, the group playing the video game did far better.  

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People who regularly report doing word puzzles such as crosswords as they age have sharper brains that function equivalent to 10 years younger than their biological age.Experts at the U.K.'s University of Exeter Medical School and Kings College London analyzed data from...
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2017-05-17
Monday, 17 Jul 2017 11:05 AM
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