Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Exercising Your Lexical Recall and Pattern Recognition

Crossword Puzzle
I was sent these links to a free online cross­word puz­zle game and sudoko. While we often talk about the excel­lent com­put­er-based brain fit­ness pro­grams avail­able, puz­zles can still be good men­tal exer­cise … they are just not a com­plete work­out for your whole brain.

Word games like cross­word puz­zles and SCRABBLE® exer­cise your lex­i­cal recall (mem­o­ry for words that name things), atten­tion, mem­o­ry, and pat­tern recog­ni­tion. They can help main­tain your vocab­u­lary and avoid the frus­trat­ing tip-of-the-tongue phe­nom­e­non that all of us expe­ri­ence from time to time. Sudoko is not a math­e­mat­ics game in that you don’t actu­al­ly manip­u­late the num­bers as math­e­mat­i­cal enti­ties, but it is a pat­tern recog­ni­tion game using sym­bols (num­bers). A very legit­i­mate rea­son to play casu­al games is that they can be social and fun — which is good for reduc­ing stress.

The draw­backs to puz­zles and games is that they are hard to cal­i­brate to ensure increas­ing chal­lenge, and they gen­er­al­ly only exer­cise a lim­it­ed num­ber of brain func­tions.

So by all means, do puz­zles if you enjoy them! But be sure to push your­self to keep find­ing hard­er ones that fall just short of frus­trat­ing you. Also, just as you cross train your vol­un­tary mus­cles, be sure to cross train your men­tal mus­cles by bal­anc­ing your work­out with oth­er types of men­tal work (motor coor­di­na­tion, audi­to­ry, work­ing mem­o­ry, plan­ning, etc.). The com­put­er­ized pro­grams make it eas­i­er for you in the sense that they are indi­vid­u­al­ly cal­i­brat­ed for you to employ nov­el­ty, vari­ety, chal­lenge, and prac­tice to exer­cise your brain more thor­ough­ly in each ses­sion.

Fur­ther read­ing on lan­guage pro­duc­tion, com­pre­hen­sion, and goofs:

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