Our latest guest author is Hugh Fennell, a psychologist and blogger who writes on various topics including health and self-development. Here Hugh briefly takes us through seven games that can help to improve our brain function whilst having some fun and relaxation. Which are your favourites?
When we think of a game, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the term ‘fun’. However, there are many more benefits from playing games than just having a good time. Games can help improve how our brain functions, processing speed, and boost memory. A study by the University of London found that playing some types of video games can help our brain to process things faster and to think strategically. Gaming is a mental exercise, and like any other workout, it can improve our quality of life. Let’s take a look at 7 games with incredible benefits.
1. Crossword Puzzles
Problem-solving games, such as crossword puzzles, are excellent for improving how our brain works. Anne Lukits, who wrote “Puzzles Boost Verbal Skills, Cut Dementia Risk” for the Wall Street Journal, believes that solving crossword puzzles improves memory in older adults. Not only can it improve vocabulary, but it can keep our brain sharp. Crossword puzzles are recommended for those with Alzheimer’s to help them with their memory. Crossword puzzles can also diminish boredom, alleviate anxiety, whilst challenging our brain to think critically. However, like any gaming, doing crossword too often can make them seem boring and repetitive so try solving only two to three puzzles per week.
2. Super Mario 64
It’s no secret that many ‘gamers’ don’t play games for the cognitive benefits. They play them for fun. However, there are many more benefits you can obtain from these games. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) from a group under study indicated that those who play Super Mario 64 for at least 30 minutes each day have an increase in grey matter. We may find it hard to believe that this game, with the amazing characters and the fun of collecting ‘power stars’, can be beneficial for our brain but try it!
3. Jigsaw Puzzles
Jigsaws are similar to crossword puzzles in that they are both good for our brain. A jigsaw puzzle works both the left and right side of the brain. Hence, it doesn’t only trigger our sensitive side but also the logical one. As such, it can exercise our brain and improve our ability to concentrate and make better decisions. Also, when doing a jigsaw puzzle we must look at different pieces and try to figure out how they would fit in the whole picture and we can use this visual-spatial reasoning in our day to day activities such as dancing, driving, and in other learning. Another advantage of doing jigsaws is they can improve our short-term memory even in the youngest of children.
This game has been in existence for over 80 years and hasn’t lost its popularity. Scrabble is known to improve vocabulary and helps us to learn the skill of anagramming – the skill of unjumbling a bunch of letters to reveal the words hidden within them. It’s been said that Scrabble players perform better in word recognition tasks, commonly known as lexical decision tasks (LDT) a procedure used in many psychology and psycholinguistics experiments that involves measuring how quickly people classify stimuli as words or nonwords. A study by the University of Calgary concluded that competitive Scrabble players use regions of their brain that are not normally associated with recognising words such as the working memory and perception.
This application is available for Android on Google Play and has over 10 million installs. Lumosity offers many cognitive games to enhance memory and encourage brain stimulation. Concentration and attention are essential o remembering things. Some games included in this app are meant to increase attention span which can help with focus.
This is a timeless game that many newspapers include in their entertainment section. Each puzzle has a 9 by 9 grid that has blocks of 3 by 3 with 9 cells each. It requires us to fill in the missing numbers from 1 to 9 with no repetitions in the same box, column, or row. Completing Sudoku is very satisfying. It requires logical thinking and analysing all possible outcomes when a number is placed. This game helps to develop visualisation and strategies for dealing with difficulties as you inspect what is already available, and what you need to add. Solving Sudoku also helps to delay the effects of Alzheimer’s by encouraging a sharp mind which helps with difficult tasks in day-to-day life.
7. Call of Duty
Action games such as Call of Duty can be beneficial for your brain. The setting of the Call of Duty games includes World War II and various others, like the Cold War, futuristic worlds, and outer space. They require motor coordination which improves visual attention and short-term memory. While playing first-person shooter games, we can acquire motor and cognitive skills through procedural memory. A study by the University of Rochester found that playing video games that have a fast pace enables one to focus while surrounded by noise as action games require focusing on several things at once and reacting fast while staying focused on your target.