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Happy Crossword Puzzle Day! Do Crossword Puzzles Benefit the Brain?

Happy Crossword Puzzle Day! Do Crossword Puzzles Benefit the Brain?

Are you a crossword fan, or are you new to the game? Either way, crossword puzzles have been around for over 100 years and continue to 'puzzle' people to this day. The thinking nature of crossword puzzles has made it a shared activity people choose when they want to take on a mental challenge. The Oxford Dictionary defines a crossword puzzle as "a puzzle consisting of a grid of squares and blanks into which words crossing vertically and horizontally are written according to clues." The game's goal is to fill in letters into the blank boxes and complete the puzzle. Crossword puzzles are known to be in newspapers, and usually, the answer key is nearby or revealed in the next week's edition.    

 
The first crossword puzzle of the kind we know and love today first appeared in the New York World newspaper on a Sunday in the "Fun" section on December 21, 1913. The known crossword puzzle creator is Arthur Wynne, who was inspired by other word puzzles to create the first-ever diamond-shaped puzzle. He called it a "Word-Cross Puzzle," and a few weeks after it first appeared, the name was changed to "Cross-Word" because of a typesetting error, and it has been called a crossword puzzle ever since.   

 
So are there real brain benefits to crossword puzzles? The most common theory about crossword puzzles is they may help ward off dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Researchers believe crossword puzzles help people develop a "cognitive reserve" that can protect people from the impacts of dementia and slow the buildup of amyloid plaques that result in Alzheimer's symptoms.  

 
Older adults tend to flaunt how crossword puzzles keep the brain young. Still, in a study published in the American Psychology Association, a group found that crossword puzzles and sudoku puzzles helped older adults be more open to experiences alongside inductive reasoning training.   

 
Openness to experience may also be why researchers found that those who did regular crossword puzzles had cognitive function ten years younger than their biological ages. Crossword puzzles, in some studies, have improved attention and working memory skills, which are cognitive skills people use every day.   

If you want to get in on the crossword scene, here are a few ways you can celebrate and add more crossword puzzles to your life.   

  • Use the hashtag #CrosswordPuzzleDay to show off your crossword puzzle skills or join conversations online.  

  • Look into Crossword Puzzle books to buy.  

  • Download Crossword Puzzle Apps on your mobile devices so you can play anywhere.  

  • Talk to your older relatives or friends about how crossword puzzles have impacted their life.   

  • Create your own crossword puzzle for your family members to solve.   

We hope these ideas spark a conversation or an appreciation for crossword puzzles. If crossword puzzles seem incredibly hard for you or become suddenly harder than they used to be, feel free to reach out to a LearningRx center to see what might be going on with your underlying cognitive skills. From there, we will conduct an assessment and help you make a plan to work on your mental skills.  

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