Mind Puzzles, Anyone?
Do you have a lot of spare time on your hands? If you do, you may want to whittle away the time by doing mind puzzles. But killing time is not the only reason you should do mind puzzles – there is a growing amount of proof that mind puzzles could help you live a healthier life longer.
This conclusion is based on research that shows that the brain functions just like a muscle – meaning, if you use your brain a lot, it grows proportionately. Your brain apparently has the capacity to adjust to stimulus even as you enter old age (contradicting the long-held belief that your brain stops adapting when you reach adulthood.)
A good example of this hypothesis are the nuns who belong to the School Sisters of Notre Dame of Mankato, Minnesota. These nuns constantly do intellectually-stimulating exercises all throughout their life. Research lately done implies that brain cells (or neurons) which are always challenged by mental exercise grow new branches. This tendency produces millions of new links (called synapses) between neurons. What is the importance of this observation? According to Brain Research Institute director Arnold Scheibel of UCLA, the brain which acts this way allows the individual to get more things done at a faster rate.
The ability of the brain to change may mean the development of brain diseases may eventually be stopped, or at the most treated properly. It also shows why certain individuals can postpone the appearance of symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease for a long time; and why others rebound better from strokes. Research indicates that a person who is more highly educated will display less symptoms of Alzheimer’s because intellectual exercises causes brain tissue to grow which replaces brain tissue destroyed by the illness. Research also shows that new neural pathways are produced around the area permanently affected by a stroke, allowing that area of the brain to keep functioning.
In the Mankato convent, most of the nuns live for a long time – the average age being 85 with a lot of them living for much longer than that. This longevity is partly due to the fact that the nuns do not do much drinking, smoking, or suffer the perils of childbirth. It is also notable that the nuns do not seem to be afflicted with the devastating symptoms of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia at the same age or to the same degree as other people.
Professor of preventative medicine David Snowdon, also of the University of Kentucky Sander’s Brown Center on Aging, believes that those nuns who continuously stimulate their minds by studying for a college degree and by teaching live for a longer time (compared to the nuns who are less educated and work in the kitchen or by cleaning room) are better off in the long run. The nuns also work on brain teasers in their spare time.
So if you want your brain to grow, do mind puzzles. Not only will you enjoy yourself, you are doing your brain a favor.