One idea that has become increasingly popular in the last several years is that doing puzzles like crosswords or sudoku can slow or prevent memory loss. However, a recent study indicates that may not be the case.
In a study of Scottish residents over the course of 15 years, researchers found completing “brain exercises” in later life don’t necessarily protect you from mental decline.
The study indicated that people who do these activities throughout their life had better cognitive abilities than those who didn’t. Still, this doesn’t mean your mental capabilities will deteriorate more slowly than people who do not do puzzles.
Rather, people who do brain teasers may experience higher cognitive function throughout life. Cognitive function includes different mental abilities like thinking, learning, remembering, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making.
What does this mean for you in later life? The research suggests everyone experiences mental decline whether you do puzzles or not. However, people who do puzzles may retain more of those abilities. So, if you’re into crosswords now, the intellectual engagement of puzzle solving could mean a higher cognitive performance in later life. You may simply begin to decline from a higher point of cognitive function.
Previously, researchers thought cognitive abilities were like muscles—you either use them or you lose them. This new research could contradicts the “use it or lose it” idea.
What this study really brings to light is just how little we really know about the human brain. Still, even though puzzles may not have all the brain-boosting benefits we think they do, they are still fun!