By: Nick Almond
Recently there has been an ongoing debate as to whether attempting crosswords regularly can stave off cognitive decline, which is the hallmark of healthy aging and dementia. As with many areas of psychology the answer to this question may not be as clear-cut as one would hope. Before considering the evidence for whether crossword participation can reduce cognitive decline in later life, it is necessary to consider the different types of crosswords available and understand whether one or another type may be more cognitively stimulating than the other. Generally, when we think of crosswords two kinds spring to mind, either general knowledge or cryptic crosswords.
A general knowledge crossword typically has clues which are similar to answering general knowledge quizzes, but the solver has the benefit of knowing how many letters make up the solution.
For example: “the capital of Peru (4)”… Read the rest of this entry »
By: Dr. Pascale Michelon
When I give a presentation about brain health and fitness, there are always a few people who come tell me afterward that they do crossword puzzles everyday. They heard that mental exercise is good for the brain so they are pleased and proud to report that they do the best they can to maintain their brain functions. But are they really? What if I was a gym instructor? Would the same people tell me proudly that to keep their whole body in shape they do biceps movements everyday, and that’s all they do? I DO feel like I was this gym instructor when I hear the crossword puzzles claim! Solving crossword puzzles repetitively is not the best habit for two reasons. Read the rest of this entry »
By: Dr. Bill Klemm
There are whole markets (think crosswords, herbal supplements, drugs, brain fitness software) aimed at helping us improve our memory.
Now, what is “memory”? how does the process of memory work?
Dr. Bill Klemm, Professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University, explains a very important concept below.
Getting from Here to There:
Making Memory Consolidation Work
By Bill Klemm, Ph. D.
Until consolidation has occurred, a short-term memory is very vulnerable, as all of us have experienced from looking up a phone number only to have some distraction cause us to lose the number before we can get it dialed.
What is “consolidation”?
Brain researchers use the term “consolidation” for the process whereby short-term memory gets made more permanent.
Here, I would like to discuss some aspects of consolidation that many people may not know about: why sleep is so important, why memory must be practiced, and how testing promotes consolidation. Read the rest of this entry »
By: Alvaro Fernandez
Today I had a great conversation with Martin Buschkuehl, one of the U Michigan researchers involved in the cognitive training study that has received much media attention since early last week, when the study was published at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
I will publish the interview notes next week. For the moment, let me paraphrase his answer to the question: “Why are computerized programs like the one you used fundamentally different from, say, simply doing many crossword puzzles?”.
Read the rest of this entry »
By: Alvaro Fernandez
Today we are fortunate to interview Dr. Jerri Edwards, an Associate Professor at University of South Florida’s School of Aging Studies and Co-Investigator of the influencial ACTIVE study. Dr. Edwards was trained by Dr. Karlene K. Ball, and her research is aimed toward discovering how cognitive abilities can be maintained and even enhanced with advancing age.
Main focus of research
Alvaro Fernandez: Please explain to our readers your main research areas
Jerri Edwards: I am particularly interested in how cognitive interventions may help older adults to avoid or at least delay functional difficulties and thereby maintain their independence longer. Much of my work has focused on the functional ability of driving including assessing driving fitness among older adults and remediation of cognitive decline that results in driving difficulties.
Some research questions that interest me include, how can we maintain healthier lives longer? How can training improve cognitive abilities, both to improve those abilities and also to slow-down, or delay, cognitive decline? The specific cognitive ability that I have studied the most is processing speed, which is one of the cognitive skills that decline early on as we age.
Can you explain what cognitive processing speed is, and why it is relevant to our daily lives?
Processing speed is mental quickness. Just like a computer with a 486 processor can do a lot of the same things as a computer with a Pentium 4 processor, but it takes much longer, our minds tend to slow down with age as compared to when we were younger. We can do the same tasks, but it takes more time. Quick speed of processing is important for Read the rest of this entry »