Crossword Puzzles Can Literally Make You Smarter and Your Brain Younger
By Marilyn Silverman
Do you enjoy doing crossword puzzles? Is it a hobby or just something to pass the time on your daily commute to work? Well, guess what? That crossword puzzle isn’t just helping you kill time during your boring daily work commute or passing time on a rainy Sunday. Doing puzzles actually makes you smarter right into your golden years. And, it’s proven by science.
A study carried out by the University of Exeter Medical School and Kings College London and presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London, concluded that people who engaged with word puzzles such as crossword puzzles, fared better on attention, reasoning and memory tests than their counterparts who didn’t complete similar brain teasers. They assessed core aspects of the brain function of more than 17,000 healthy people aged 50 and over.
“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,” says 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. 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. We now need to follow up this very exciting association in a clinical trial, to establish whether engaging in puzzles results in improvement in brain function.”
It’s well established that keeping an active mind can help to reduce decline in thinking skills as we age. “This new research does reveal a link between word puzzles, like crosswords, and memory and thinking skills,” adds Dr. Doug Brown, Director of Research of Alzheimer’s Society, “but we can’t say definitively that regular ‘puzzling’ improves these skills. To be able to say for sure, the crucial next step is to test if there are benefits in people who take up word puzzles.” In the meantime, he notes, you can reduce the risk of developing dementia by keeping physically active, avoiding smoking and eating a healthy balanced diet.
So go ahead, do that crossword puzzle and make yourself smarter, right into your golden years!