Puzzles to Boost Your Brain & Memory; Starting Today, a Professor of Psychology's Irresistible Mindbenders - Specially Designed to Sharpen Your Mind

Daily Mail (London), April 8, 2017 | Go to article overview

Puzzles to Boost Your Brain & Memory; Starting Today, a Professor of Psychology's Irresistible Mindbenders - Specially Designed to Sharpen Your Mind


Byline: Dr Tonia Vojtkofsky

THERE'S something so infuriating about striding purposefully into a room - only to glance around and wonder why on earth you went in there in the first place.

Or perhaps it's endlessly rummaging around for keys or spectacles because you've got absolutely no idea where you put them.

We might laugh off the occasional memory lapse as a 'senior moment', but as mini mental slip-ups become steadily more frequent, it can be very easy to wonder whether the odd missed appointment, forgotten password or inability to grasp that elusive word hovering tantalisingly on the tip of your tongue could be a sign of something more sinister.

One of the greatest fears for any adult is the scourge of dementia, and as a doctor of psychology specialising in Alzheimer's disease, the question I am most often asked is whether you can reduce your risk.

Thankfully, the answer is definitely yes! Studies have shown that a healthy diet, regular exercise, no smoking, not too much alcohol, good sleep, socialising and de-stressing are fundamentals for long-term brain health.

But the most exciting areas of research lie in the powerful regenerative effects of exercises for your brain.

My big area of research as a former Professor of Psychology has been focused on measuring the impact of brain puzzles and exercises on people in the very earliest stages of dementia.

Our studies show that just three hours of targeted brain training a week is enough to ensure that someone with early dementia can confidently function at a higher level.

But we have also found that a good mix of exercises builds the strength and flexibility of the healthy brain, too, keeping you sharper and mentally younger whatever your age.

You should think of it in the same way you would a quick walk or swim - simple daily exercises that keep everything ticking over.

Keeping your brain stimulated is crucial. In fact, people who continue to test their brains throughout their lives have been shown to have a lower risk of developing dementia.

If you already tackle a daily crossword puzzle or run through a few sudokus at the weekend, that's great. But I've got news for you - I'm afraid that just isn't going to cut it.

You really do need to mix it up with a wider range of exercises in order to glean maximum benefit from the brain's ability to adapt and hang on to every single last drop of your thinking power for as long as possible. My studies show that the perfect brain workout targets different parts of the brain, just as a proper gym workout would target muscle groups around the body.

For maximum brain power, you need to complete a variety of exercises which target different cognitive abilities.

STUDIES show that regular physical activity stimulates the release of a special brain chemical called BDNF, which is dubbed 'MiraCLEGRO' for the brain because it actually stimulates brain growth like a fertiliser.

So I set out to measure whether brain exercises could also stimulate BDNF and if so, which exercises worked best.

My book - Keep Your Brain Stronger For Longer - is the outcome of this research and my years of working with people with early-stage dementia.

It contains a specific mix of puzzles which challenge the different aspects of memory and thinking most likely to weaken with age. No other brain-boosting puzzle book does this...

WHAT ARE YOUR MENTAL STRENGTHS? PEOPLE differ greatly in the degree to which their brains decline with age. We will all lose processing power but for any individual, some bits will age faster than others.

You might not notice any agerelated decline in some mental functions - such as vocabulary, numerical skills, and even your general knowledge - but other mental capabilities will typically start to decline steadily from middle age onwards.

These are the areas you can boost through the exercises featured today and all next week in the Mail. …

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