• Word Games: A Way to Forestall Age-related Cognitive Decline?

    British Medical Journal. 2018;363:k4925

    Although there is some research that suggests otherwise, doing tricky crossword puzzles or a difficult Sudoku puzzle may not fend off age-related mental decline according to a new study that was conducted in a methodologically sound manner.

    The study’s authors propose that such cognitive exercises may not necessarily work in a preventative manner, instead they may provide a “higher cognitive point” from which to decline. That is, if done, especially earlier in life, they may create a kind of cognitive reserve.

    James Pickett, head of research at the United Kingdom’s Alzheimer’s Society, said that other factors should also be taken into consideration. “Of all the diseases in the UK, dementia is now the biggest killer, so exploring potential factors which could reduce the risk of developing this devastating condition is fundamental to beating it,” he said. “Although playing ‘brain games’ such as Sudoku may not prevent dementia, it has been shown that regularly challenging yourself mentally seems to build up the brain’s ability to cope with disease.”

    The Alzheimer’s Society recently launched a brain-game app called GameChanger, which while not intended to reduce the risk of dementia, playing it may help build an understanding of cognitive changes and the difference between cognitive decline and dementia.

    Eventually the GameChanger project could locate those people who are showing early signs of cognitive decline and get them involved in studies and trials to hopefully stop them from developing dementia.

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