What We Think We Know About Brain Games

It’s true that anybody should be instantly forgiven for having by now grown suspicious of online advice about health and longevity. It certainly seems as if anyone who has access to the world wide web is suddenly free to preach their own personal message as gospel to the masses.

Which is why it’s more important now than ever before to cultivate an enquiring and discerning mind. And in order to keep our minds going and eager to learn for as long as possible, we must first become aware of what it is the human brain really needs in order to say healthy, functioning at capacity, and perhaps most importantly thinking fit.

Which brings us to the topic of brain games – and in particular why many older people believe in the brain-training power of games such as crosswords, Sudoku, chess, card games, bingo, Lego, word puzzles, Rubik’s cubes, and the like.

Do Brain Games Help Our Brains?

Popularity and personal belief aside, the first question we should probably ask is whether games classified as “brain games” can actually help combat mental aging, memory loss, etc.

The short answer, according to a popular research school at a prominent US university, is that brain games on their own, due to contributing factors such as hereditary illnesses, genetic dispositions, and even lifestyle, aren’t enough to reduce an individual’s risk of developing dementia or even simple forgetfulness.

But at the same time, the researchers are quick to point out, there exists tons of study-based evidence suggesting that brain games can help develop and improve certain mental skills, thereby playing a vital role in maintaining overall mental fitness and brain health.

Flexing Those Thinking Muscles

We’re each of us in possession of certain mental or ‘thinking’ skills. These include skills such as the speed at which we process and analyse information, planning skills, our reaction time, specific decision-making skills developed over time and born out of experience, short-term memory, etc. The list really does go on.

The old saying of “use it or lose it” seems to come into play when we’re talking remaining optimally thinking fit. This is not to say that those who don’t enjoy playing games that push our cognitive boundaries are doomed to a life of impaired thinking in old age and can instead visit this site for  different kind of mental stimulation. But what it refers to is the same principle as that which applies to a muscle being regularly exercised and trained vs. a muscle hardly made to flex at all.

In the same way a muscle becomes tenacious and flexible and strong when regularly exercised, so too the human brain seems to become “better at thinking” when stimulated every once in a while, as opposed to hardly ever at all.

The Secret Is Novelty

Important to keep in mind too is that someone who already happens to be a master of chess won’t benefit quite as much from playing chess as someone unable to tell a pawn from a knight. Since we know from research that learning something new creates connections and pathways in the human brain, the trick seems to be to “keep it novel”.

And when all is said and done, since it happens to be good and wholesome games we’re talking about, what does anyone actually stand to lose from giving it a go?