The Joy of Puzzles - Especially in Old Age

In response to, and in agreement with: http://www.economist.com/blogs/buttonwood/2014/12/brain-training


Nothing is quiet as intimidating as facing your old age: as people get older they begin to lose their mental sharpness; memories become hazy, mental clarity becomes clouded. Some, sadly, digress into mental illness, developing dementia, Alzheimer’s among others.

There is hope: By giving your brain a moderate workout on a frequent basis you can help stagnate the onset of these issues. Studies have shown that novel mental activities, that people take their time evaluating, can help with patterns of cognitive aging. The results provide strong evidence that the link between engagement by novelty and higher cognitive performance increases with age.

Here is the issue
: Your brain is an organ, but it needs to be stretched and worked out like a muscles. It’s similar to clay – its moldable, you can shape it and work it to form something wonderful. Psychologist call this “plasticity” and our brains lose this ability to be "plasticized" as we get older. This is why we need to exercise it, and work it, continually in to our old age. By working with puzzles we help regenerated circuits in our brain. The greater the number of circuits, the more efficiently our brain begins to work.

Here’s the numbers: It is estimated by the year 2050, considering that people are living longer – that over 1 billion people will be over the age of 35. About 37 million of those will fall victim to some form of mental illness. These numbers although shocking will continue to grow exponentially into the future.

Giving your brain a workout improves cognitive functions from math to memory, it can even benefit brain functions during the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. Exercise enhances the growth and survival of new neurons in the hippocampus - a region of the brain essential for long-term memory. By exercising your brain you will see improvements from remember the shopping list to calculating quick arithmetic.

It had been demonstrated that playing puzzle can help to reduce the likelihood of dementia or Alzheimer’s happening. New finding that the benefits of puzzles don’t just aid with psychology, but also with a gallimaufry of attributes both physical and mental- including things like rotary movements, enabling people to pick up objects.

When your brain is being activated while playing with puzzles, you are working on something called the “whole brain approach”. This means both your left and right side are stimulated – this is most effective state for exercising the brain and learning new skills. The same approach is attributed to the development of children as their brains are engaged and stimulated throughout they acquire skills more readily. Games like High Rise Condo & Wooden Connect 4 - are perfect for assisting with dexterity puzzles.

Emotionally and chemically puzzles provide positive reinforcement – termed the “Aha moment”, when one finally completes a puzzle – dopamine is released in the brain – positively reinforcing the puzzle activity and improving moral. They also provide a genuine opportunity for people of all ages and cultures to interact – young or old, nothing crosses generations quite like a good puzzle.

December 17, 2014 by Sean Allan
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