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Keep Forgetting Things?


Keep Forgetting Things? Neuroscience Says This Memory-Fixing Brain Game Works Best

Forgetting things can be scary. Where are my keys? What time was that important meeting scheduled? Oh, and ... what was the amusing third thing I was going to include on this list? While I wait for that final item to come to me, let's talk about a promising new study out of Columbia University and Duke University, which suggests there's a simple, common, under-appreciated activity that can help slow memory loss among the people who need it most. 

Writing in the journal, NEJM Evidence, D.P. Devanand, professor of psychiatry and neurology at Columbia, with Murali Doraiswamy, professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke, said they recruited 107 volunteers with an average age of 71, and had them either do crossword puzzles or play computer video games (depending on what cohort they were assigned to), over a period of many weeks.

The results? Participants who did crossword puzzles fared much better in terms of memory loss or lack thereof compared to those who played video games, as measured by cognitive tests and changes in brain size (measured with an MRI), over the course of 78 weeks.

"The trifecta of improving cognition, function and neuroprotection is the Holy Grail for the field," Dr. Doraiswamy said in a press statement, adding that, "[f]urther research to scale brain training as a home-based digital therapeutic for delaying Alzheimer's should be a priority for the field."

Now, I've learned that there are three things that most successful people worry about almost universally: maintaining their professional success, nurturing their families, and holding off old age and health challenges as long as possible. When it comes to those health challenges, there's a special emphasis on aging and preventing memory loss, which is why I think this study is particularly interesting.