Why Crosswords Puzzles are not Enough for a Sharper Mind

By: Dr. Pascale Michelon

We often wish we could remember better, pay more attention, be more understanding, be less stressed, etc. In other words we all wish we could function better. Is this possible? Experts tell us that to function better we must take care of our physical brain and try to develop and exercise it.

Why exercise the brain to sharpen our mind?
It is not always obvious why taking care of our brain would have an impact on how we remember things, how we focus on the task at hand or deal with our boss.
Thoughts, emotions and actions all originate in the physical brain. The brain can be seen as the origin of what we call the mind. So sharpening the mind comes down to exercising the physical brain.

The brain is not just one big thing
One of the most important brain facts to understand is that the brain is not just one big thing. Different parts of the brain support different functions or abilities.
Here is a list of some of your abilities. You will see that they are not all supported by the same brain areas:

  • Vision (occipital lobes)
  • Hearing (temporal lobes)
  • Memory (temporal and frontal lobes)
  • Attention (parietal and frontal lobes)
  • Language (temporal and frontal lobes)
  • Emotional control (frontal lobes)
  • Spatial skills (parietal lobes)
  • Social skills (frontal lobes)

Understanding this helps understanding why crossword puzzles cannot be the only thing one does to keep a sharp mind. Crossword puzzles involve only some areas of the brain. What about the rest of the brain? How do you sharpen your other abilities?
To function better overall one needs to exercise the whole brain. This implies finding an array of different activities that are all stimulating. A stimulating activity is an activity that will engage your brain in a novel and challenging way. Doing a 1052638th crossword puzzle will not be as challenging as the first one you did.

How can challenging activities change the brain?
The brain has the ability to change itself (called neuroplasticity). Repetition and practice of a though, an emotion or an action can drive plastic changes in the brain: blood vessels can increase in size and number, brain cells communication can be improved.
So, if you repeatedly engage in a stimulating activity, the brain areas involved by this activity may change and become more functional. The ability supported by these brain areas will then improve.

4 comments on “Why Crosswords Puzzles are not Enough for a Sharper Mind

  1. authentic Rod Woodson jersey on said:

    Wow! This will be a single of the extremely useful blogs Weve ever arrive across on that subject. Basically Fantastic. Im also a professional within this topic thus can understand your efforts.

  2. pascale@thememorypractice.com on said:

    Hi Clarence, There is no clear answer to your question. Doing sudoku can be more stimulating than doing crosswords if you are not familiar with sudoku but are familiar with crosswords or if you complete more difficult sudoku than crosswords. Doing sudoku engages brain areas different from the ones engaged when doing crossword puzzles so for a better overall brain health, ideally, you would want to do both.

  3. Clarence Goetsch on said:

    Does doing soduko offer more to invigorate memory retention than crosswords puzzle?
    I would think that many types of brain exercises would provide better memory retention

  4. Well put, sir, well put. I’ll crteanily make note of that.

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