Daily crosswords linked to sharper brain in later life

17th Jul 17 | Fitness & Wellbeing

Word puzzles such as crosswords have been linked to improved brain function, researchers report.

Daily crosswords linked to sharper brain in later life

People who do daily word puzzles have sharper brains as they grow older, researchers report.

Academics at the University of Exeter Medical School and Kings College London analysed data from more than 17,000 healthy people aged 50 and over, submitted in an online trial.

As part of the survey, participants were asked how frequently they played word puzzles such as crosswords, with results showing that the more regularly subjects engaged with word puzzles, the better they performed on tasks assessing attention, reasoning and memory.

"We found direct relationships between the frequency of word puzzle use and the speed and accuracy of performance on nine cognitive tasks assessing a range of aspects of function including attention, reasoning and memory," said Professor Keith Wesnes. "Performance was consistently better in those who reported engaging in puzzles, and generally improved incrementally with the frequency of puzzle use."

On test measures of grammatical reasoning speed and short-term memory accuracy, performing word puzzles was associated with an age-related reduction of around 10 years. The researchers now hope to investigate the topic further with a clinical trial.

Accordingly, the findings may prove of importance when it comes to tackling age-related health issues.

"This new research does reveal a link between word puzzles, like crosswords, and memory and thinking skills, but we can't say definitively that regular 'puzzling' improves these skills. To be able to say for sure, the crucial next step is to test if there are benefits in people who take up word puzzles," added the Alzheimer's Society's Dr. Doug Brown.

The full research was presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC).

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