Brain games don’t make you smarter
Jne Valokuvaus/Shutterstock You might think getting good at Sodoku or doing the daily crossword puzzle will enhance your brain’s capabilities, but sadly this isn’t the case. “If you do a lot of crossword puzzles, you can get better and better at completing crossword puzzles,” says Dr. Chapman. “The limitation is that the mental effort spent on this challenge, while building vocabulary, is unlikely to expand your higher-level reasoning abilities, such as decision-making, planning, and judgment.” Another example: Even if you get really good at remembering where the red cube was on a screen, it doesn’t mean that you’ll always remember where you put your car keys. A group of scientists actually have signed a statement refuting the claim that brain games can slow cognitive decline, saying there is as of yet no scientific evidence that they do. Find out how you can train your brain to have a superhuman memory.
But, you can strengthen your brain
basiclassic/Shutterstock Although brain games may not supercharge your thinking cap, you can train your brain by focusing on broader, more dynamic skills. “The best news is that we can do things to counter age-related brain decline and strengthen our ‘smartness’ into late life– especially when it comes to innovative problem solving and deeper level thinking,” Dr. Chapman says. “Reasoning and innovative thinking contribute to the intellectual capacity needed to respond effectively to our constantly changing real-life demands.” For example, learning a new language, a musical instrument, or other new hobbies have been shown to increase brain function. Here are 15 more brain-boosting activities with science on their side.
Social interaction is good for the brain
Jacob Lund/Shutterstock If you want to remain sharp as you get older, it’s not just about gaining knowledge but about social stimulation too. “Research suggests that meaningful social activities actually maintains or increases brain function,” says Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, ABC, president of the healthcare consulting firm The Aging Experience. “The memory center in the brains of seniors maintained their size and, in men, grew modestly after two years in a program that engaged them in meaningful and social activities.” So volunteering, visiting with friends and family, and staying active in social groups can actually help your brain as you age. Check out these other 15 things brain doctors do to prevent Alzheimer’s.