Saturday, June 7, 2014

Puzzles and Riddles as Secret Weapon against Alzheimer’s

Researchers at University of California Berkley set out to study the link between Alzheimer’s and life-long stimulating cognitive activity. Their study focused on the beta-amyloid, a protein whose presence in the brain is believed to be the biological cause of Alzheimer’s. Beta-amyloid folds in fibrous sheets appear in large quantities in the brains of elderly with Alzheimer’s.

The researchers, led by Susan Landau, brought in 65 healthy elderly people aged 60 and up to survey and find correlations relating to the beta-amyloid buildup. Landau and her team asked the participants to rate their cognitive activity based on what pre-determined mental activities the participants took part in. Unlike other research on Alzheimer’s, these questions referred not only to the subject’s current mental activity, but also their lifelong mental activity starting at age 6. Then psychologists scanned the participant’s brains using PET scans to measure beta-amyloid build-up and compared the scans to those of Alzheimer patients and modern 20 year-olds.

What the team found showed a positive correlation between high levels of stimulating cognitive activity and low levels of beta-amyloid in the brain. When factors such as self-rated memory and physical activity were factored out of the results, the psychologists determined that the two factors must be linked together.

Train your Brain

Brain strength is related to age, genetics, experience and disease. As you age, brain cell connections weaken and may lead to age-related disorders, such as Alzheimer's. Although studies have shown that genetics and education are both linked to the susceptibility of such age-related disorders, it is possible to reduce your risk of mental decline by strengthening your brain. Puzzles are a type of mental exercise that you can use to increase your brain strength.


Your brain is a complex organ made of a network of connected neurons. The neurons continue to form and reorganize themselves as you learn and are exposed to new stimulus throughout life. Studies show that the act of learning stimulates a section of your brain called the cerebral cortex and strengthens the connections between your brain's neurons. Stimulating your brain is also thought to help build new brain cells.


Your brain has specialized sections that are used to store and process different types of information. Your cerebrum controls memory, thoughts, problem-solving and movement. It is divided further into specialized sections, with the area used for problem solving located at the front. Language is stored in your brain's left and right temporal lobes. If you are left-handed, your brain uses both lobes to store language, but if you are right-handed, most of your language is stored in the left lobe. Word association puzzles can be used to strengthen the connections within your temporal lobes.


To strengthen different sections and functions of your brain with puzzles, you need to vary the subject matter and puzzle-solving process used. This can be done by rotating between different types of puzzles, such as shape and color puzzles to sharpen concentration and memory, word puzzles to develop language skills and crossword puzzles to strengthen your ability to solve problems.


To strengthen your brain, you need to challenge it. This means doing new puzzles that you have not solved before and advancing the skill level as you progress. The sense of accomplishment and enjoyment that you achieve through solving challenging puzzles is an important part of the brain-strengthening process. For this reason, you should try to find puzzles that you enjoy solving.

More about riddles and puzzles

When you get down to basics most of human life is focused on problem solving. From basic needs to supplying food and providing shelter to more advanced stages including career advancement and financial management life seems to be a series of riddles and puzzles that we have to navigate in order to survive and enjoy life. Many people see riddles and puzzles as child's play but in fact these simple games and clever problems are structured to make the brain work to find solutions that aren't readily available. Another important lesson riddles and puzzles teach us is that there is no one answer to any particular problem and that the more we train our brains to think the better we become at solving problems no matter how big or small.

Riddles are classified as two types: enigmas which are problems generally expresses in metaphorical or allegorical language that require ingenuity and careful thinking for their solution and conundrums which are questions relying for their effects on punning in either the question or the answer. Some people get very flustered with riddles because the answers aren't always as clear as a basic math problem.

In mathematics when you add 2 + 2 you always get 4 but think of riddles in terms of algebra where 2(y) + 2(x) may not equal 4. Riddles force the brain to stretch beyond rote memory and automated responses to challenge our ability to think through a problem. This is why many math teachers want to see how you arrived at an answer rather than just giving one.

Though many detractors find riddles and puzzles trivial the fact of the matter is that such brain training games sharpen the mind and open up new areas of thought processes that can lead to better problem solving techniques. Many of us like answers to be simple and plain to avoid having to think too hard. We have enough problems and obstacles in our lives that the last thing someone wants is the added hurdle of having to solve a riddle too. But when you practice riddles and problem solving on a daily basis you'll be surprised to see how much easier thinking, memory retention and cognitive abilities become with a fit and healthy mind.

Try not to think of puzzles and riddles as confusing and frustrating hurdles. When you think that way you've already given up. Rather look at brain training games as a way to be creative with you thoughts and to develop new strategies for solving a problem that can have many uses during your daily life. If it wasn't for improved problem solving man wouldn't be at the level of progress he is at. If we stayed with our animal instincts and failed to improve our thinking ability chances are we'd be in cages while apes gaped at us from behind the glass. Just as lazy is a habit with negative consequences brain training is a healthy habit that can only improve your brain and its ability to function.


Books, newspapers, the Internet and game stores are all great places to find puzzles. Most newspapers publish crossword and Sudoku puzzles daily, while hundreds of websites offer free puzzles and brain teasers. Check your local library to see if they carry books on brain-strengthening exercises and puzzles. Using different sources to find brain strengthening puzzles will help vary the type and skill level of puzzles that you do.

While there are countless resources online to offer your numerous riddles and puzzles, we would like to present the ten free quality services you may find useful.

1) Brain Games by Brain Pages offer an extensive collection of free brain games split into sections including logic, puzzles and brain training.

2) NeuroNation. “On NeuroNation, you can improve your brain performance effectively with simple and enjoyable exercises. NeuroNation is completely free of charge and exclusively ad sponsored.”

3) Soak Your Head. “A free application of the popular dual n back working memory trainer. You can play online or download to your own computer.”

4) FitBrains “Offers a large collection of Brain Games, brain health information and other fun features!”

5) The Original Memory Gym. “Welcome to Improving people’s ability to remember and recall information is our goal. We have tips on how to improve your memory and tools to help you practise putting it to use!”

6) Brainwaves. “These brain-training exercises are formatted as stimulating puzzles. They are designed to help develop mental skills…”

7) Brain Connection. “Posit Science brings you this interactive website aimed at introducing you to the booming field of brain fitness.”

8) Rinkworks Brain Food. “Give your mind a work out on our devious collection of puzzles. There are hundreds, ranging from word games to logic problems to riddles. Some are tricky. Some require innovation. All require thinking power.”

9) “The Internet’s most entertaining puzzles are here: Sudoku, riddles, anagrams, doublets, picture puzzles, chess problems, trivia, math puzzles, logic puzzles …and more!”

10) HAPPYneuron. “HAPPYneuron brings you Brain Fitness through entertaining games that are fun and scientifically developed and validated to challenge your brain and keep it in top gear at all times.”

Sources and Additional Information:

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