How Puzzles Improve Working Memory
Puzzles are a super fun way to exercise the most important muscle of all – your brain. Although different types of puzzles improve different parts of your brain, they all help to sharpen your short-term memory. Short term memory is used for thing like quick mental arithmetic, remembering a phone numbers, or recalling spoken directions to an unfamiliar place.
The most profound insight into the brain in the late twentieth century was that the brain never ceases to undergo structural and operational changes, predominantly based on life experiences; when it is stretched and tested – the richer the experience the more efficient our brain becomes.
By learning more, doing more and experiencing more we form greater numbers of circuits within the brain. The more circuits we have the more efficient the brain becomes, the greater functional power it possesses. Puzzles improve Neuroplasticity, as a result we become faster and smarter in your short-term memory recall.
Why does your memory become faster?
The skills learned through puzzles allow you to negate problems more efficiently, as you become aware of patterns and nuances quicker – allowing you to make correct decisions more effectively, at work and at home.
Imagine your brain just now as a single street all pointing to a singular shopping mall; there is a lot of traffic, all your thoughts are jammed up, and you’re not responding at the optimum level.
When you start to exercise your brain through puzzles and brain teasers, you start to build more streets (circuits). The more circuits your brain builds, the more streets your brain has to reach and grab information – the less jammed up traffic in your thoughts, the faster and more efficient the recall.
This idea is especially prevalent in David Eagleman’s book: Incognito, when relaying back to sportsmen who can recall information faster than is cognitively possible. This idea can be used for batters in baseball who make unbelievably complex decisions in split seconds with astounding accuracy.
This is because their mind is able to evaluate situations and recall information, at near superhuman speed. In fact, it’s actually impossible for us to make simple cognitive decisions at the speed batters in baseball strike the ball. Of course this is at the extremely high end of the scale.
People who are savants, geniuses or craftsmen spend lifetimes honing their abilities – as well as probably having a natural propensity for learning the activity anyway. At the lower and more practical scale, it will allow everybody and anybody to access information more quickly and respond faster, in everyday situations. So don’t quit your job in a hope of an MLB career just yet.
Why do puzzles allow me to store more memory?
Puzzles help your brain to create more of these storage systems. Much like if you were learning a language, you need new places to store all these new words, but you also need to be efficient in bringing back knowledge. So you can use it conversation. You need to not only store and recall the information, but you need to have real mental clarity in your thinking. Puzzles help develop all these elements.
In Malcolm Gladwells book, Blink, he refers to the “Power of the Glance” – this comes from French “Coup d’Oeil”. This refers to people looking up, evaluating a situation and providing the correct solutions, almost instantly. Deciphering amazingly complex situations and acting out the correct response. You have probably felt this before, maybe with a putter in your hand – you just know the answer; you weighed up a complex green, air dynamics, your own force, the correct accuracy and sunk the put – almost without thinking. It’s a truly amazing feeling. Puzzles develop this element of your brain allowing you to have more moment of magic and inspiration.
“Coup d’Oeil” in the past was often used to describe generals in battle, today it’s more likely to be used to describe a prized quarter back in American football. The ability to take in all information, filter out the noise, then calculate the important factors and provide a solution in a split second. This split-second-analysis is based on an abundance of knowledge being stored in your brain with a multitude of circuits accessing this efficiently – and voila you just know the answer.
Imagine that now you have multiple streets pointing to multiple shopping malls – that all contain different information. You have improved your brains elasticity and efficiency by providing it with challenging stimulus. This is going to help you store information, recall information – improving your working memory.