What's Better for Your Brain, Crossword Puzzles or Computer Games?

November 2, 2022

 Older adults looking to slow down memory loss might find some help in a classic brain-teaser: the crossword puzzle.

That's the suggestion of a small study that followed older adults with mild cognitive impairment — problems with memory and thinking that may progress to dementia over time. Researchers found that those randomly assigned to do crossword puzzles for 18 months showed a small improvement in tests of memory and other mental skills.

That was in contrast to study participants who were assigned to a more modern brain exercise: computer games designed to engage various mental abilities. On average, their test scores declined slightly over time.

Experts cautioned that the study was small and had other limitations. For one thing, it lacked a "control group" of participants who did not perform brain exercises. So it's not clear whether doing crossword puzzles or playing games is significantly better than doing nothing.

"This is not definitive," said lead researcher Dr. Davangere Devanand, a professor of psychiatry and neurology at Columbia University in New York City.

He said that larger studies, including a control group, are still needed.

As it is, the current results were unexpected, according to Devanand. Going into the trial, the researchers suspected that computer games would reign superior. Past studies have found that such games can help older adults with no cognitive impairments sharpen their mental acuity. [read more]

Source: U.S. News & World Report