Wednesday, December 8

Solving crosswords: benefits for adults beyond entertainment


Since to early 20th century A New York newspaper published what is considered the first crossword puzzle, this entertainment gained a surprising mass. In the more than 100 years since then, almost no printed newspaper has failed to include a crossword puzzle on its pages.

Five games to stimulate the memory of older adults

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It is a game, a hobby, but it requires thinking, concentrating, remembering, trying to identify clues and patterns. That’s why caught the attention of scientists And over the years, many researchers have tested whether solving crossword puzzles has health benefits.

The answer is yes. Above all, because of what this activity represents as “mental gymnastics”. Some of the main effects of the habit of solving crossword puzzles are outlined below.

Crosswords to delay cognitive decline

This is the aspect on which more studies have been carried out. In 2011, a team of scientists from the United States checked that the practice of solving crosswords has a positive effect on the cognitive reserve, that is, the ability to resist brain deterioration without presenting symptoms.

Specifically, the researchers determined that the habit of crossword delayed by an average of 2.5 years the onset of accelerated memory decline in older adults who were in the preclinical stages of dementia.

A year later, a study from the University of California at Berkeley, United States, determined that “mental gymnastics” (such as crossword puzzles and also reading, writing and solving various puzzles) can “prevent or delay“the accumulation in the brain of a substance called beta-amyloid.

The presence of this substance is related to cognitive deterioration and the development of diseases that lead to dementia. Older adults who had done crossword puzzles and other similar activities throughout their lives had the brain similar to that of young people. On the other hand, the one of those who had not done that “gymnastics” looked more like the brain of Alzheimer’s patients.

In this sense, a key fact is that this mental stimulation had better effects when it was carried out in youth and in the middle age of life. I mean, those would be the most appropriate times to strengthen the cognitive reserve long-term.

Stimulates the brain, although it does not prevent possible diseases

A job The most recent – published in 2019 by scientists from the University of Exeter and King’s College London, in the United Kingdom – analyzed data from more than 19,000 people and reached the same conclusion: crosswords, and other games such as sudoku puzzles and puzzles , improve cognitive function in older adults.

However, given all these conclusions, it is important to highlight what James Pickett, director of the Alzheimer’s Society, also based in the UK: “Unfortunately, this does not mean that crosswords or puzzles definitely prevent dementia. ”

These studies, emphasizes the specialist, show that solving crossword puzzles and other mental games are linked to thinking skills. But the risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia is not reduced.

This is demonstrated, by the way, the many cases of people who have had a great intellectual development and, nevertheless, end their days suffering from this disease. In any case, Pickett added, new studies are needed to deepen our understanding of the relationships between “mental gymnastics” exercises and the possible reduction in risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Memory aid

The exercise of solving crosswords also favors memory. This seems almost common sense, but science has confirmed it in a particular way: from the case of a man who, after an operation, underwent anterograde amnesia. That is, he could not save long-term memories (similar to the protagonist of the movie Memento).

That man – known by his initials: HM – participated in an experiment (whose results were published in 2004) in which he had to solve crossword puzzles, an entertainment he was fond of. Some of those puzzles included information that he had no way of knowing, as it had to do with things after his operation.

However, after working over and over again with the same crosswords, HM began to correctly complete some of those words that he had no way of knowing, because they corresponded to events after his operation. The man knew things though I couldn’t explain how I knew them.

“Crosswords reveal something what happens in that space between short-term working memory and long-term permanent memories. ” Explain Adrienne Raphel, a researcher at Princeton University, United States, and specialist in crosswords and puzzles and their relationship with thinking.

Verbal skills and other benefits

Another benefit that seems evident of the love of crossword puzzles is its ability to improve verbal skills, especially to incorporate new words and thus expand vocabulary. Also at this point science has made its contributions to go beyond common sense.

There is something called phonemic verbal fluency, a cognitive function that involves grouping processes and word changes when speaking. This function is affected by the passage of time, both by possible diseases and by normal aging.

Well, a group of older adults who solved a crossword a day for almost a month showed higher levels of phonemic verbal fluency than another who did not carry out this task. The results of the experience, led by scientists from Cork University College in Ireland, were published in 2014.

The authors of the work pointed out that something as simple as the daily solving of a crossword “can be a simple and effective means of reinforcing phonemic verbal fluency in older adults.” One more reason to love this simple and affordable entertainment: found in newspapers, cheap magazines and also In Internet.

Otherwise, as require concentration, crosswords help to momentarily forget everyday worries and, in this way; They help reduce stress and anxiety levels.

And if they are solved as a team or as a family, it will be an activity that serves as bonding tie and it can even help children find a pleasant and entertaining activity outside of the increasingly present screens and electronic devices.

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