Unlock Your Potential: Discover How Crosswords Can Enhance Brain Health

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Do Crosswords Make You Smarter?

Hobbyists like me who play the word game daily (including the Express Mini!) as a steadfast morning ritual would like the answer to be a vehement yes.

It’s hardly surprising that people who play word-based puzzles tend to do well when tested on verbal skills, but it doesn’t stop there. Even though there is no conclusive evidence to confirm that crosswords make you smarter, there is plenty that indicates that being a regular at the puzzle flexes your brain and improves mental wellness.

Experts suggest that playing crosswords can help reduce the risks of dementia with aging, assists in tackling anxiety, and leaves you with a positive sense of accomplishment that can boost mental health in the short-term.

How Crosswords May Help Keep Dementia & Alzheimer’s at Bay, Improve Memory

  • A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine Evidence in 2022 examined how different puzzles and games could improve memory in those with mild cognitive impairment.
  • Participants were asked to take up either one of the two – web-based cognitive games or crossword puzzles of medium difficulty.
  • After 12 weeks, scientists found that participants who had been assigned crosswords showed better results on a number of assessment tests, including the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive score.
  • Furthermore, the researchers found that the hippocampus showed less reduction in volume for this group when measured using MRI brain scans.
  • Crosswords primarily target areas of the brain associated with language processing and memory, helping to improve neural connections and strengthen cognitive abilities.

Crosswords Get You to Think ‘Differently’, Build a Community

Mani Kadayam, an advertising professional, has been doing crosswords for nearly three decades now. He spends about 30 minutes solving the puzzle 2-3 times a week.

“For me, personally, it’s not as much about expanding my vocabulary but more about thinking differently. It helps you think laterally, form connections, and associations,” he says.

Many crossword enthusiasts have formed online groups and communities where they can engage in clue-writing competitions and collaborative solving.

If Nothing Else, the Crossword Makes You Feel Smarter

A sense of satisfaction descends upon you after solving the crossword – one which can elevate your mood for the rest of the day.

A 2008 study by the University of Berkeley demonstrated that word puzzles can help combat anxiety by activating the region of the brain that commands logical reasoning and concentration.

“Puzzles and word games divert attention away from stressors, promote relaxation, and provide a mental escape. Solving puzzles can create a meditative state, leading to reduced anxiety levels and an overall sense of calmness,” says Dr. Lalcheta.

Need I give you more reason to pick up The Indian Express’s new mini crossword for beginners?

📝Try them out here.


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