Study: Sudokus, Crosswords Don’t Slow Cognitive Decline in Old Age
Most advice and previous research around staying sharp in old age, or even improving cognitive ability, revolves around problem-solving, intellectually stimulating games to keep your brain sharp, like Sudoku or crosswords — “use it or lose it,” the expression goes. But a new study has found that such intellectual engagement doesn’t actually stave off cognitive decline in old age, so much as “imparts a higher starting point from which decline is observed,” explained the lead researcher.
Potatoes, potahtoes — but an important distinction for anyone looking to these types of puzzles to ward off the progression of cognitively degenerating conditions, like dementia, and diseases, like Alzheimer’s, in loved ones.
Read more: Study Debunks Claims of Brain Training Apps
Dr Roger Staff, of the University of Aberdeen and head of medical physics at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, led the research, which followed nearly 500 participants, all born in 1936, who had each taken the same intelligence test at age 11. The participants, all 64 years old at the start of Staff’s study, were then tested over 15 years for reading level, memory, mental processing speed, and questioned regularly about their level of intellectual engagement — for example, their interest in reading, their level of curiosity, their participation in problem-solving. Their educational level was also recorded.
After analyzing all of the data, from childhood as well as old age, Staff and team concluded that while higher levels of such activity throughout life increased cognitive ability, it had no effect on the rate of age-related cognitive decline. Any positive effect of a “predisposition toward mental engagement” across a lifetime, they said, lies in providing individuals a higher point from which the mental decline associated with aging starts.