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Crosswords Vs Brain Training Games: Which One To Choose?

Crossword puzzle

Crossword puzzles have been seen as a way to improve the brain’s cognitive skills since they first became popular in the early 1900s. Recently, however, research has shown that crosswords may not be as effective an exercise for your brain as other modern brain training games, particularly in the case of older adults.

The 2011 Iowa Healthy and Active Minds Study, examined a group of 681 volunteers all aged 50 or above. The volunteers were divided into four groups, one of which was given ten hours of training with supervision. The other group received just one session of brain training, which was followed by another session 11 months later.

The third group did a session of brain training at home with no supervision, while the fourth group took part in a training session involving computerized crossword puzzles with supervision.

The progress was documented by measuring the volunteers’ field of vision, which is known to shrink with age, but can be improved with practice. The results showed that those who had taken part in the computerized brain training sessions showed a higher rate of improvement when compared to the crossword puzzle group, even after not having trained for eight weeks.

Previous studies have always shown that while brain training games are effective to an extent, they are no more effective than crossword puzzles.

In 2009 a study carried out at the request of the consumer group Which?, found crosswords to be equally as effective in keeping the brain sharp as celebrity endorsed brain training games such as the Nintendo DS game, which is said to be useful for improving memory and even preventing dementia.

The game, priced at around $100, is said to stimulate the frontal cortex region, which would increase the blood flow in that area of the brain. However, the group of scientists who carried out the study on these games concluded that there was insufficient evidence to back these claims.

New study does seem to indicate that brain training games that have been specifically designed to exercise the brain are more effective than other recreational activities.

They were also of the opinion that along with crossword puzzles, a healthy diet and everyday recreational activities, such as chatting with friends or browsing the Internet, have the same effect on a person’s blood flow, making the game redundant.

The debate about whether or not brain training games are superior to more traditional brain training methods such as crossword puzzles has been an ongoing one in the scientific community. But the new study does seem to indicate that brain training games that have been specifically designed to exercise the brain are more effective than other recreational activities.

Despite the seeming contradiction between these two main studies, some critics are quick to point out the fact that both studies may be correct in their own way.

While brain training games may work well for preventing memory loss in older adults, they may not have the same effect on younger people. Similarly, while crosswords may be stimulating to the brain, their effects are not as far reaching in older adults as they are in younger people.

Brain training games are already used in some driving schools to help students get an insight into driving, as well as to test their reaction times. A program called AAA Roadwise Review has been designed with the goal of helping old adults evaluate their driving skills.

The training game takes into account both the mental and physical aspects that are involved in the driving of a vehicle, and in particular it studies abilities that are known to decline as a person gets older.

Another similar program named “DriveFit” has been developed for use by driving instructors. Its aim is to allow driving instructors assess their student’s weak points before they even step into the car.

Brain training games Vs crossword puzzles remains a controversial subject, particularly because of the differing results that different studies have brought forth.

With more research into the matter, however, it is likely that brain training games will become more accepted as a way to keep people’s brain sharp, particularly for older adults, whereas crossword puzzles are most likely to remain what they are best known for being – a purely recreational activity.

Image by gkdavie

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About Andrianes Pinantoan

Andrianes Pinantoan is a long time blogger and an avid student of the brain. He's fascinated with how the mind works and its application in everyday life. When not working, he can be found behind a lens.

View all posts by Andrianes Pinantoan →

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