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Is it useful to solve Sudoku?
Crosswords, puzzles and Sudoku train memory - this is accepted as an axiom. As well as the fact that any intellectual entertainment improves mental abilities. Neurophysiologists warn that not everything we think is good for the brain is. Love for crosswords accelerates the development of multiple sclerosis, and many logic games are simply useless.
It is generally accepted that logical and other intellectual games "do not let the brain dry out." Elderly people are advised to solve Sudoku online puzzles and crossword puzzles in order to maintain a good memory. Children are forced to memorize poetry, and young people go through logic quests at their leisure in order to develop mentally. No one argues that it is necessary to develop intelligence and keep the brain active. But not everything that we think is beneficial to mental performance is actually it.
In recent years, neurophysiologists have presented interesting, largely contradictory data on the benefits of crosswords and logic puzzles. British scientists have proven that doing free Sudoku puzzles and the like "rejuvenates" the brain. Professor Ian Robertson of Trinity College Dublin and his colleagues argue that solving logic puzzles improves blood circulation in the brain, that is, it acts like exercise. People over 65 who regularly sit at crosswords and puzzles are less likely to suffer from memory impairment and Alzheimer's disease, British neuroscientists said.
However, after similar studies, their colleagues in Chicago made one important amendment to this positive conclusion. At first, they agreed, crossword puzzles and similar mental entertainment did indeed slow down the aging process of the brain. But if Alzheimer's disease did affect the elderly, then in those who previously actively trained their brains, it progressed about twice as fast.
The compatriots of the positive-minded Ian Robertson also brought their own fly in the ointment. A group of scientists from the Brain and Mind Science Department of the British Council for Medical Research, led by Adrian Owen, conducted a detailed study of how memory and intelligence exercises improve the quality of mental work in general. Scientists were interested in computer games specially designed to enhance general intellectual abilities.
More than 11 thousand people took part in the experiment. The volunteers were tested for intelligence and then had to devote at least 10 minutes a day to logic games for six weeks. The effectiveness of their actions turned out to be zero. According to the impartial conclusion of scientists, the subjects improved only the quality of the tasks to which they devoted their time. The general level of their mental development remained the same, and their “advancement” in intellectual games had no effect on either their work or their studies.
“We found no statistical difference between the improvements we saw in those who took our mind games program and those who just spent that time on the Internet,” Owen admitted.
But if you continue to reason in this vein, you can come to the conclusion that any mental activity is useless for the brain. This is not so, just crosswords and logic games have one feature that we often forget about - monotony. Crossword puzzles have a finite vocabulary of words and definitions to them. Sudoku, rebuses and logic puzzles usually have the same solution principle. Having mastered it, you can click similar tasks like nuts, increasing only the level of their difficulty. However, the activity itself ceases to be new for the brain - and, therefore, developing.
In 2011, Australian scientists from the University of New South Wales conducted a detailed study to find out what activities actually contribute to the maintenance of brain activity. For three years, experts led by psychiatrist Michael Valenzuela (Michael Valenzuela) followed up 70 elderly people aged 60 and older. Their mental activity was monitored using MRI brain scans, IQ tests and observations of the subjects' lifestyle. Surveys have shown that those who devoted little time to training memory, mind and - attention! - gaining new experience, lost about half of the volume of the hippocampus in comparison with their more active peers. The researchers published the results of their observations in the journal PloS One.
Dr. Valenzuela advises people of all ages not to neglect fresh experiences and learning. “Any new experience, from tai chi gymnastics to travel, helps maintain mental health,” he says. Learning foreign languages is also an unsurpassed "brain trainer". Despite some similarities within language groups, mastering a new language requires constant activation of all mental abilities - memory, verbal, logical thinking (to keep grammatical rules in mind). Since the rules of a foreign language, its phonetic structure and vocabulary are unfamiliar, each lesson brings new knowledge.
A person's mental health is also supported by simple communication. As numerous studies confirm, active social activity is the key to mental longevity. In 2001, brothers Bradley and Craig Wilcox, together with Dr. Makoto Suzuki, published the results of a unique 25-year study on the lifestyle of some of the longest-living people on Earth - the inhabitants of Okinawa. Scientists set out their observations in a popular science book entitled "Why the Japanese do not grow old." An entire chapter in it is devoted to active social activities and mutual support among the people of Okinawa.
According to the observations of researchers, local people at any age maintain relationships with relatives and friends, join hobby clubs and find new hobbies. Widowed elderly people are in no hurry to move to their children, preferring to run their own business and keep in touch with their existing circle of acquaintances.
“Many centenarians have a hobby or goal that makes them regularly communicate with others: one raises bulls for traditional bullfighting, another teaches folk music, and the third performs the duties of a priest in a Buddhist temple for the whole day,” the scholars write. It is the support of friends - old and new, a wide circle of contacts and hobbies that help Okinawan old people maintain clarity of mind and good spirits, the researchers conclude.
Summing up, it is worth recognizing: new experiences, skills and meeting new people are useful for the brain. In this, mental training can be compared to physical training: fitness instructors advise you to regularly change exercises so that the muscles do not get used to monotonous loads. The main enemies of flexible thinking are laziness and monotony of life, and the best antidotes against them are mastering new activities, previously unfamiliar areas of knowledge and even new places.
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