The Brain

Solving Crosswords Can Keep Your Brain "10 Years Younger" Than It Really Is

Crossword-lovers rejoice! No longer is your need to demonstrate knowledge in front of your colleagues and friends deemed just showing off. According to a new study, it actually keeps your brain sharp for later in life.

In fact, according to researchers from the University of Exeter and Kings College London, those who do a crossword a day have a brain “10 years younger” than their actual age, when they are 50 or over.

In one of the biggest studies of its kind, they studied 17,000 healthy people aged 50+ who had submitted data in an online trial, asking them how often they used word puzzles such as crosswords. Using cognitive test systems, they assessed brain function and found that those who regularly sat down with a crossword performed better at tasks on attention, reasoning, and memory.

“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, in a statement. “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.”

Their results were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2017 in London this week.

The researchers hope their work will help identify easy lifestyle activities that can be incorporated into everyday life to help people maintain a healthy brain. Although this is an exciting link, they acknowledge their research needs to be followed up with proper clinical trials.

“We know that keeping an active mind can help to reduce decline in thinking skills. This new research does reveal a link between word puzzles, like crosswords, and memory and thinking skills, but we can’t say definitively that regular ‘puzzling’ improves these skills,” Dr Doug Brown, director of research of Alzheimer’s Society said. “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.”

 

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