The cryp­tic so­lu­tion to knock­ing 10 years off your brain’s age (5, 9)

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Sarah Knap­ton SCIENCE EDITOR

IF COM­PLET­ING the Tele­graph cross­word is a daily tra­di­tion, it may be grat­i­fy­ing to learn that your brain is 10 years younger than your ac­tual age.

Re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Ex­eter and King’s Col­lege Lon­don tested more than 17,000 healthy peo­ple aged 50 to gauge their mem­ory, at­ten­tion and rea­son­ing.

They found that the more of­ten par­tic­i­pants tack­led word puz­zles, the bet­ter they per­formed at tasks as­sess­ing at­ten­tion, rea­son­ing and mem­ory.

From their re­sults, re­searchers cal­cu­late that puz­zle en­thu­si­asts have brain func­tion equiv­a­lent to some­one 10 years younger, on tests of gram­mat­i­cal rea­son­ing speed and short-term mem­ory ac­cu­racy.

The team be­lieves that a daily cross­word could help pre­vent men­tal de­cline.

Prof Keith Wesnes, from the Univer­sity of Ex­eter, said: “We found di­rect re­la­tion­ships be­tween the fre­quency of word-puz­zle use and the speed and ac­cu­racy of per­for­mance on nine cog­ni­tive tasks as­sess­ing a range of as­pects of func­tion in­clud­ing at­ten­tion, rea­son­ing and mem­ory.

“Per­for­mance was con­sis­tently bet­ter in those who re­ported en­gag­ing in puz­zles.

“On test mea­sures of gram­mat­i­cal rea­son­ing speed and short-term mem­ory ac­cu­racy, per­form­ing word puz­zles was as­so­ci­ated with an age-re­lated re­duc­tion of around 10 years.

“We now need to fol­low up this very ex­cit­ing as­so­ci­a­tion in a clin­i­cal trial, to es­tab­lish whether en­gag­ing in puz­zles re­sults in im­prove­ment in brain func­tion.”

Sci­en­tists hope their work will iden­tify life­style fac­tors to help peo­ple main­tain healthy brains.

Ac­cord­ing to univer­sity re­searchers, a daily tus­sle with a cross­word can knock 10 years off our cog­ni­tive age. On­line test­ing car­ried out on more than 17,000 healthy peo­ple aged 50 found that the more they en­gaged reg­u­larly with word puz­zles, the bet­ter they per­formed on tasks as­sess­ing at­ten­tion, rea­son­ing and mem­ory. With peo­ple liv­ing longer and risk­ing de­men­tia, a daily cross­word could help pre­vent or at least ar­rest men­tal de­cline in later life. More than that, it might ac­tu­ally im­prove brain func­tion. This news­pa­per was a pi­o­neer of cross­words, the first ap­pear­ing in 1925. It is nice to know that those among our read­ers who head for the back page each morn­ing, pen at the ready, can le­git­i­mately say that they are a decade younger than they are – or that their brain is at least.

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