We could all benefit from brain training now and again, if we carved out a small amount of time each day. For those who don’t have the time to read weighty books and practice algebra equations (most of us, let’s be honest), short and fun brain training puzzles come to the rescue. Puzzles such as sudokus and crosswords have long been enjoyed and utilised. These games have allowed generations to unwind and relax while keeping their brains engaged and active. However, many have questioned if these methods work, and what the future might look like for brain training.
The value of brain training
There have been many studies over the years that have set out to discover the true benefit of brain training. Research by the NHS earlier this year found that participants who said they completed regular crossword or sudoku puzzles did better on the tests of cognitive ability. However, it could also be argued that the participants with higher cognitive abilities were more likely to want to engage with brain training puzzles in the first place. In another study, specifically focussed on the effectiveness of sudoku, it was found that there was a significant relationship between sudoku and the working memory performance of older adults.
The beliefs of the public reflect these studies — people love brain training and believe that it will benefit their cognition. After a questionnaire focusing on under 30-year-olds, results showed a belief that brain training apps help to improve thinking, memory, and even mood. Whether or not participants had actually used such app themselves, these beliefs persisted.
So, it is clear that people both enjoy brain training and whole-heartedly believe that it will be beneficial to their cognitive ability. But is there still room for paper puzzles in an age of apps and digital technology?
How might be look at training our brains in the future?
Much of the brain training world is going fully digital. There is currently a massive online following for apps that improve our cognitive skills, such as Lumosity and Peak, which have both reached 10,000,000+ downloads over 2019. In addition, the forecasted release of Nintendo’s highly anticipated reimagined brain training game for Switch, Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training, is set for 3rd January 2020 in Europe. This game determines a player’s “brain age” and is adored by long-term fans.
All the new tech surrounding brain training could put traditional pen-on-paper puzzles in danger. However, there are many reasons that people are still choosing this comparatively ‘old-fashioned’ brain training method today and will continue to do so over the coming years. These reasons include:
- Greater amounts of scientific study — crosswords, sudoku, and other traditional games have been proved time and time again to benefit cognition. Studies claiming that these puzzles sharpen our brains to the ability of someone 10 years younger are bound to make people stay loyal to the traditional methods. Whereas scientists are still struggling to find definitive evidence that brain training apps work to improve cognition.
- Apprehensions about screen time — Your screen time may be used to further your brain’s development, but it is screen time nonetheless, and could still be damaging. Too much screen time is a concern when it comes to young children’s development, so why should we treat it with any less caution as adults? Many prefer to stick to paper puzzles to give their weary eyes a break from scrolling on their mobile phones.
- Traditions and a sense of community — A crossword can be completed alone, or as part of a group. Many people enjoy this kind of brain training as group activity and prefer the communal sense of a good old fashion pen-to-paper puzzle to sitting alone and using an app.
- Generational preferences — As is to be expected, there is a generational split in relation to brain training. According to statistics presented by MindSea, “the average 18- to 24-year-old spends more than three hours a day using the mobile apps on their phone while people 55 and older spend less than two hours.” Because app-use has become second nature to younger generations, they are far more likely to choose apps as a brain training method. Whereas older adults tend to prefer paper alternatives.
Overall, it doesn’t look like the puzzle book printing industry has anything to worry about quite yet. Even in 2019, among vast amounts of new technology, people still enjoy traditional methods of brain training, and will continue completing crossword puzzles and sudokus for years to come.