A real brain teaser

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A new study about brain training games may have given that industry a bit of a headache. OK. A concussion may be more like it. 

The study, which was conducted by the BBC news outlet, found that people who participated in computer games to boost their cognitive skills got better at the games but their general reasoning, memory, planning or visuospatial abilities did not improve. Participants were asked to do brain training "workouts" for at least 10 minutes a day, three times a week for a minimum of six weeks.

Ouch. Those findings hurt. Especially because the industry for brain training games is booming. More companies are sprouting up and touting the effectiveness of their cognitive-enhancing products.

Inevitably, the study also makes us question other kinds of activities that supposedly help our brain power. Who's to say that crossword puzzles do anyone any bit of good, either?

But is the study the last word on brain fitness? I doubt it. 

While the science on cognitive-boosting computer games is still unclear, there is a lot of evidence that exists to support games or activities that challenge our minds. Studies have emerged that the more we use our brains, the better they will work, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The association believes that learning something new and being disciplined about training our brains on a daily basis can reap benefits. That doesn't necessarily mean just doing crosswords or Sudoku puzzles but those activities that challenge us, such as learning a new language or even using a fork with the non-dominant hand. 

We should also couple brain-building exercises with physical exercises. As the Alzheimer's Association likes to say, what is good for our hearts is good for our brains. Keeping our hearts strong through exercise and eating right will improve the health of our brains.

And think about it. If we really believed that brain building is a bunch of hooey, we would all be spending even more time by the TV with potato chips and super-size sodas. For some reason, that doesn't seem right anymore.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.