From Our 2007 Archives

Puzzles May Be a Real Brain-Booster

THURSDAY, June 14 (HealthDay News) -- A daily crossword puzzle or similar highly focused task might help sharpen your all-round powers of concentration, new research suggests.

"There are a growing number of activities, from crossword puzzles to Sudoku, promoted as ways to keep our minds young. Our early data suggest that attention training is indeed a way to reduce older adults' susceptibility to distracting stimuli and improve concentration," Jennifer Mozolic, a graduate student at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., said in a prepared statement.

She was scheduled to present the findings Thursday at the Organization for Human Brain Mapping conference in Chicago.

Older adults tend to combine information from their senses more readily than younger adults. This tendency -- called sensory integration -- can make it difficult to ignore distracting sights and sounds and concentrate on a specific task.

The early results of this study of 23 people, ages 65 to 75, showed that eight weekly one-hour attention training sessions improved their ability to block out distractions and concentrate. The sessions involved either a structured one-on-one mental workout or a group brain exercise program.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to analyze the blood flow and activity in the participants' brains while they completed assigned tasks.

The study is ongoing and will eventually include a total of 66 participants.

"Behavioral and imaging data support our hypothesis that attention training can reduce multi-sensory integration. This suggests that attention training is a potential way to improve sensory processing by reducing older adults' susceptibility to distracting stimuli," Mozolic said.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, June 14, 2007

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