Brain Training: Fun and Games Are Good for Your Brain
“Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.” — Leonardo Da Vinci
Brain Training is Important
As we age, it’s common for our brains to not work quite as efficiently as they used to. To stay on top of its game, your brain needs cognitive exercise just like your body needs physical exercise. That’s what cognitive stimulation is… exercise for your brain. Just as Da Vinci warns, you must not let cognitive inaction sap the vigor of your mind.
How does brain training work? As your brain works to learn new things, it must forge new neural connections. As you continue in your “brain training,” you help your brain maintain those neural connections. Many scientists believe this ability diminishes with age; therefore, you need to perform activities on a regular basis to keep your brain healthy and strong.
What is the Hippocampus?
In order to understand why all of this is important, first you need to know a little about a part of your brain called the hippocampus.
The hippocampus is where long-term memories are stored. It is also where you store the memories of people and the location of objects. Your hippocampus helps you remember things like who your friends and family are, where you live and what you do while at work. As you may have guessed, it is the part of your brain that is affected and damaged by Alzheimer’s disease.
Learning and Brain Training
An article about neurogenesis (the growth and development of neural tissue) and how the brain is kept fit through learning was published by the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information). It explains why learning is so important. The author states that thousands of new brain cells are added into the adult hippocampus every single day. Most of these new cells don’t survive. In fact, half of them die within a few weeks.
This is where learning comes into play. For more of these new cells to survive, effortful learning must take place. Learning an easy task may keep a few cells alive, but effortful learning will best serve you in your endeavor to keep these cells alive and thriving. Those that survive create neural connections that benefit, not just the hippocampus, but neuronal connections throughout the brain. These new brain cells will also be used to learn more efficiently in the future.
Maintaining Cognitive Health Through Brain Training
Now that you understand the importance of developing and keeping these neuronal connections, let’s look at things you can do for successful brain training.
Stay active, both mentally and physically! Yes, even physical exercise is beneficial to brain health, especially aerobic exercise. We all know what it takes to get physically fit, so let’s take a moment to talk about what it takes to get mentally fit.
Challenge your mind. Do crosswords, sudoku and kakuro puzzles. Read, always looking up the words of which you don’t know the meaning. Sign up for a Word of the Day email, and study them daily. Join a study group. Begin a new hobby. Even coloring has been shown to have some impact on your brain.
Remember, the activity needs to be “effortful” if you want these new brain cells to live and thrive. Once an activity is no longer challenging, it is time to try a different activity for your brain training to be beneficial.
10 Brain Training Websites
Getting access to brain training tools is easier than it has ever been. And fortunately, free tools abound on the internet.
There are many websites that offer free brain training. Others require a subscription and will track your progress. Here are 10 to get you started on your journey to brain fitness.
- MindDabble.com – MindDabble, also accessible through Facebook, provides games to boost your brainpower and improve memory.
- BrainMetrix.com – BrainMetrix is a free education website dedicated to brain training programs.
- BrainCurls.com – BrainCurls offers free games to exercise your brain, test your memory and learn something new.
- Mindgames.com – This site is loaded with a variety of fun and challenging games.
- Brain Food – Brain Food, produced by RinkWorks.com, offers a collection of puzzles, from word games to logic problems.
- Brain Games – Brain Games, offered by BrainPages.org, is an extensive collection of free brain games, fun workouts for your brain.
- MyHAPPYneuron – MyHAPPYneuron has a variety of fun and entertaining games that are scientifically developed to challenge your brain.
- NeuroNation.com – Once your login is set up, you can take advantage of eight exercises free of charge. With a subscription, you have access to more than 60 brain training exercises developed by neuroscientists.
- Lumosity.com – Once you have created a login, you can play a few free games. With a subscription, you have access to their brain training and progress tracking, all created and designed by scientists and game designers. They also offer a blog for those who want to learn more about the brain and brain training.
- MindSparkle.com – MindSparkle is a subscription site offering no nonsense brain training exercises, but you can take advantage of a free two week trial. If you want to learn more about the brain and brain fitness, check out their blog.
Specific Sites to Train Your Brain
It’s easy to get lost and distracted by all of the activity of the above sites. If you want something more specific and yet challenging, check out the following:
- SudokuConquest.com – sudoku puzzles of different sizes and difficulties.
- KakuroConquest.com – kakuro puzzles of different sizes and difficulties.
- HitoriConquest.com – hitori puzzles of different sizes and difficulties.
- Staying Sharp Puzzle Packet – a free printable ebook which includes various types of puzzles.
Brain Health and Memory Care
We here at The Brielle understand the importance of brain health. Our programming’s mission, for both assisted living and memory care, is to help residents thrive, despite memory issues. Contact us today to learn more.