- How Does Solitaire Benefit Your Brain?
- The benefits of playing Solitaire
- Computer games could save your brain
- Brainy bonanza
- Everyday play
- 5 Ways to Improve Brain Health
- Promote Cognitive Health with Brain Games for Seniors
- The Importance of Brain Games for Adults
- 5 of the Best Card Games for Brain Health
- Other Great Games for the Brain
- Memory Games Online: The Digital Age of Brain-Training
How Does Solitaire Benefit Your Brain?
Solitaire is a logic-based game, which means it gets the juices flowing in your head. You’re trying to have a good time and relax with an app game, but you’ve forgotten about one of the best digital card games in existence – solitaire!, you can also Play solitaire online.
But, it’s not just about having fun. It gets your brain moving, keeps your skills sharp, and allows you to reap the benefits of a cognitive-based game while also having something to do (and killing time, if you’re into that sort of thing).
Here are three ways that solitaire improves your brain:
We watch mind numbing media all day – adult Americans are projected to watch five hours of media, from YouTube to Netflix, each and every single day. Having something to sharpen your mind by solving puzzles and deducing mathematics will greatly benefit your brain more than anything else.
If you ever find yourself feeling sluggish, your mind is trying to go to sleep, but there’s too much to do. We often feel the “Two o’clock burn” at work or feel tired on the train home. It’s not just because you put in a hard day’s work, but because you were performing tasks you do on a daily basis. Treat your mind to a little variety!
Ever run into little issues here and there and you just can’t find a creative solution? You might be getting a little rusty. Solving puzzles and deducing equations (which is what solitaire is without the cards and graphics, when you think about it) can help prepare you to make decisions with creative solutions in the future.
You can play solitaire free right now by heading over to the app store on your Android or iPhone, and get playing. Reap the rewards of a sharper mind today!
The benefits of playing Solitaire
The next time you will play solitaire, you will know that there are some benefits out of this game. No matter if you find yourself bored or restless or you are just searching for a nice activity where you can have fun even if you are alone at home, the game of solitaire is always the answer. Now you have the possibility to play solitaire on your computer and this should keep you playing by the rules all the time. There are countless benefits you could get while playing this game and we are here to offer you a good overview of some of them.
One of the things that you should know about solitaire is that it keeps your mind busy. This way, you can get the opportunity to have a soft mental activity that should keep you sane. It’s the perfect past time right after a hard day at work, especially for those that do not want to use TV or radio to unwind.
Everybody needs to have some alone time and this time should be spent away from everybody else out there. You probably think that there are countless of other activities, but solitaire is set up to be located pretty high as there are millions of fans from all over the world.
Another benefit that you’ve probably already thought about is that in case you have a job that requires you to have many periods where there is nothing to do and you have to stay there at work in front of a computer, you could easily start playing this game online. The time will pass and in the end, you will have a good number benefits, as you will feel more relaxed and you will get paid for doing that.
While solitaire is a single player game, it can also be played with more than one player. For the two player game, you have to compete with the other player and finish making the foundation cards as soon as possible and the player that does it the fastest wins. This means that solitaire can even help you interact with other people and enhance the social interaction you have and it can also help you become more competitive.
Usually the successful card players have developed their intelligence levels. They are able to use their brain constantly and it helps them enhance different mental skills. Solitaire can always be an excellent game where you can continuously have to deal with cards, numbers, and you have to apply different strategies.
Computer games could save your brain
Norman Barrow and Stephanie Frederick from Calaroga Terrace in Portland, Oregon, playing FreeCell in the computer laboratory.Credit: Holly Jimison
If you’re one of the many people who while away hours playing FreeCell, that heinously addictive and complicated version of Solitaire, you may be interested to hear that some researchers think your performance in this computerized card game might reveal early signs of dementia.
As Holly Jimison from the Oregon Center for Aging and Technology explains, scientists are looking for ways to spot mild loss of brain function, termed ‘mild cognitive impairment’ (MCI), before the full-blown symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease emerge. This would allow doctors to plan their treatments earlier.
That’s a tricky task. MCI is poorly defined: it is not clear, for example, how much memory impairment should be considered abnormal, nor whether measured MCI will lead to Alzheimer’s disease. “Standard memory tests, brain imaging and biological markers are all currently being used. There are a lot of interesting data but no solid answers,” says William Jagust, a neuroscientist from the University of California, Berkeley.
The Oregon researchers wanted to develop an unobtrusive continuous monitoring system that might reveal more reliable information than intensive, yearly memory check-ups. “We thought of using a suite of computer games,” says Jimison. “So we interviewed elderly people, and FreeCell was by far their favourite. FreeCell requires a lot of mental planning to play, and it’s cheap, non-invasive and fun.”
Nine senior citizens were chosen for a preliminary 3-week study. “They usually played 30-50 games a week and one subject played 660 games in 3 weeks,” says Jimison. A computer algorithm judged the easiest way of completing each game, recalculating it after every card move, so the researchers could calculate the efficiency of each player.
“We interviewed elderly people, and FreeCell was by far their favourite game”
Oregon Health and Science University.
The study results, presented at the 10th International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders from 15 to 20 July in Madrid, Spain, showed that the three players who had already been diagnosed with MCI were less efficient than healthy players, and also showed less day-to-day consistency1. However, three weeks was too short to spot any actual decline in game-playing efficiency.
“Amusing as it sounds, the basic idea is not so dissimilar from other kinds of tests that clinicians use to monitor cognitive decline,” says Catherine Myers at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. “The only question is: does it work?”
No one, not even the researchers involved, knows yet. Any statistically justifiable conclusions will have to wait until a planned study with 300 volunteers has been completed.
If the test works, it could be a more sensitive approach than current MCI tests. “The standard tests are performed irregularly,” says Jimison. “The patients come in, they might be having a bad day, then might not be measured for another year. We look at continuous performance over time, and feel that we can tell the difference between, say, Alzheimer’s and apathy.”
The Oregon team are planning to test a whole battery of computer games, to see how well they correlate with cognitive function.
Could playing 50 games of cards a week let doctors keep tabs on your mental state?
The next logical step is to see whether games such as FreeCell can improve brain function. The games company Nintendo already markets console games such as Brain Age and Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training, which involve completing a daily series of quickfire puzzles, from arithmetic questions to spot-the-difference games. Each day, the player receives a ‘brain age’ assessment.
Mental-health researcher Deborah Barnes from the University of California, San Francisco, is well versed in the study of how computer exercises can enhance brain activity. “Computer games probably do improve cognitive function, but this improvement is likely to be very specific to the type of game played,” she says. “It’s unclear whether it will have any impact on day-to-day brain function or risk of dementia.”
As for keeping your brain cells fit, “probably the best thing people can do is go out and get some exercise,” recommends Jimison. But if you are stuck at your computer playing cards, it might be helpful to know that some FreeCell card layouts are in fact unsolvable. Trying to play those ones may be enough to drive anyone demented.
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Oregon Health and Science University.
- JimisonH., et al. IEEE Trans. Inf. Technol. Biomed, 8
5 Ways to Improve Brain Health
The new year is now well upon us, and chances are at least one of your 2011 resolutions is related to improving some aspect of your health. If, like so many of us, you’ve resolved to exercise more or stress less this year, here is some good news: Both are also very important to keep your brain functioning at its peak. A healthy brainnot only helps improve memory, mental clarity and countless other cognitive tasks essential for better health and well-being, it may also reduce the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Since the nerve cells in our brains degrade as we age, there’s no better time than now to keep your brain active, so that it functions well for years to come.
Here are five lifestyle changes to help improve your brain health; you may find that some of them are already on your new year’s resolutions list.
Learn something new that you’re not familiar with. I’ve written about brain games, which are generally good for “exercising” your brain; but, there are many other things that can increase brain activity, such as learning how to play a new instrument or sport, picking up a new hobby, or learning a new language. The important thing is that it needs to be something unfamiliar. If you already play bridge, switching to solitaire is less effective at improving cognitive function than something vastly different, such as taking ukelele lessons. By performing diverse tasks, you’re working out different parts of your brain.
Add omega-3s, antioxidants and curry to your diet. It goes without saying that a balanced diet is essential for health on countless levels. Brain cells need some dietary fat to perform their best, and studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids are the ideal choice. The best sources of omega-3s are fatty fish (e.g., mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna and salmon) and walnuts; a purified omega-3 supplement is a good second best. Antioxidants from fruits and vegetables have also been shown to play an important role in brain health, protecting brain cells from oxidative damage. Additionally, the U.S. National Institutes of Health suggest that curcumin, the main ingredient in turmeric (a bright yellow spice widely used in curry), possesses powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may suppress age-related brain degradation.
Get at least 30 minutes of exercise three times per week. Physical exercise supports brain health in several ways. First, it increases the density and size of brain capillaries, which boosts the levels of blood and oxygen to the brain. Second, exercise has been shown to help produce new brain cells by elevating the chemicals that stimulate nerve cell growth. Additionally, it increases the levels of dopamine and serotonin, two chemicals that produce feelings of positive well-being, which is also great for stress relief. At minimum, try to get in 30 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week, such as a brisk walk, slow jog or swim.
Sleep well. Getting adequate rest is crucial for your body – including the brain – to perform its best. Some experts believe sleep gives neurons that are active when we’re awake a chance to shut down and repair themselves. Sleep also may give the brain a chance to exercise important neural connections that might otherwise deteriorate from lack of activity. The best way to determine how much sleep you need is to pay attention to how your body responds to different amounts. When do you feel productive and alert? Do you consistently feel sleepy when driving, or on the bus or train? Do you depend on caffeine to get through the day? These signs may indicate that you need more sleep.
Take control of your stress level. We all know that stress, especially chronic stress, can wreak havoc on the body in multiple ways, from raising blood pressure to weakening the immune system. Many studies suggest that the hormonal spikes caused by stress can negatively affect the hippocampus region of the brain over time and increase the acceleration of cognitive decline. For all these reasons, managing stress is extremely important for health, including your brain. I’ve found that meditating helps keep my stress levels in check. Find what works for you – it may be yoga, breathing exercises, writing in a journal, learning to say “no” or taking walks.
Here’s to a healthy and happy year ahead. Your brain will thank you for it.
Mind your health,
Dr. Keith Black
For more information on Dr. Keith Black, visit the Cedars-Sinai Neurosurgery Department
Promote Cognitive Health with Brain Games for Seniors
Researchers continue to believe that playing what they call “brain training games” can help keep the mind sharp. They may not prevent a brain from normal aging, but they can help keep a brain healthy, alert and finely tuned. These mentally stimulating games can play an important role in aging well.
Mentally challenging brain games — cards, puzzles and board games — are good for seniors who may have mobility issues because they don’t involve a lot of physical activity. What they do involve are fun, intellectual and social forms of stimulation.
The Importance of Brain Games for Adults
Studies demonstrate that card games, puzzles and board games are good mental stimuli and help promote brain health. This is especially true for older adults. Games also stimulate the immune system and can trigger the use of visualization, memory and sequencing skills.
Many games also involve socialization and verbal interaction. We know that games can also help mitigate boredom and depression, both of which can cause cognitive decline. They can be fun activities that involve family and friends. This social dynamic also helps keep the brain active and engaged.
5 of the Best Card Games for Brain Health
Experts on aging like to say that “playing your cards right” can help keep your mind sharp long after retirement. While this is a play on words, they’re right. Playing card games can improve short-term memory as well as long-term memory. There are cards games of varying difficulty levels you can choose from:
- Bridge. The best card games are those that demand memory, strategy and attentiveness. Bridge is one such game. It teaches logic, reasoning, quick thinking, patience, concentration and partnership skills. Bridge also involves at least 4 people so there is a valuable social component to the game as well.
- Go Fish. Card games don’t have to be as complex as bridge to help with mental acuity. Even simple card games like Go Fish help exercise the brain.
- Gin Rummy. This is an old favorite that’s easy to learn but requires careful attention. A player needs to track what cards have picked up and which have been discarded.
- Poker. Organize a poker night for your family and make sure your parents come! Play games like 5 Card Draw or Texas Hold ’em.
- BlackJack. These card games can be a lot of competitive fun. They also require concentration and visual memory.
- Solitare. Even a game of Solitare can be a good brain game. However, card games that involve others also promote socialization. This interaction with others is known to help promote brain health as well as emotional well-being.
Other Great Games for the Brain
The New England Journal of Medicine studied people over the age of 75 who engage in brain-stretching board games. These people were less likely to develop dementia than their peers who didn’t play these games. Some great games that are good exercises for the brain are:
- Checkers. A classic game that can be played with grandkids.
- Chinese Checkers. Work the problem-solving muscle by figuring out how to move the marbles when moves seem limited.
- Mahjong. Popular with the ladies and strategically demanding.
- Backgammon. This game requires critical thinking to beat your opponent.
- Dominos. This requires thinking ahead and concentration.
- Bingo. A simple game but one that usually involves a lot of other people which is an added advantage.
- Chess. Probably the most mentally challenging board game. There are groups that meet up to play chess, which is great for meeting new people.
- Scrabble. Word games like scrabble require creativity and the ability to recall words.
- Crossword puzzles. If you or your loved one are new to crossword puzzles, you don’t need to start with the rather daunting New York Times puzzles. Try a book of simpler crossword puzzles to tackle as you master the art of the crossword.
- Sudoku puzzles. If numbers are more your thing, try solving one of these great logic puzzles.
- Jigsaw puzzles. These are both visually as well as mentally stimulating.
- Word searches. Buying a book of these can provide hours of entertainment.
- Brain teasers. Buying a book of riddles is another fun game. Your loved one can solve them by themselves or use it as an activity with grandchildren.
Memory Games Online: The Digital Age of Brain-Training
While the traditional card and board games remain very popular, we now also have digital brain-training games. They have become all the rage. A $6 billion industry to be exact! They can be played on your computer or any mobile device – a laptop, tablet or smartphone. These digital brain games offer a wide array of puzzles and problems to solve.
They can be played for hours or merely minutes, whenever the whim strikes. In today’s digital world where almost everyone has a digital device, you don’t even need another person to engage in a game. What could be more convenient?
Some of the most popular online brain games are:
- Lumosity. Used by over 60 million people worldwide, this app offers cognitive and scientific games designed to improve memory and stimulate the brain. Free in the iOS app and Google Play stores.
- Dakim. A “brain fitness program” that offers more than 100 mental exercises, games and puzzles to give the brain a workout. These games are specially designed to improve attention and concentration.
- Fit Brains Trainer. This platform includes 360+ games and puzzles to enhance memory, focus and brain speed. This app adjusts to get more difficult as you get better. Free on Google Play and the iOS app store.
- Cognifit Brain Fitness. These are fun brain games designed by neuroscientists. You can start with a personal cognitive assessment and track your progress. Free in the iOS app store.
- Brain Trainer. Play language and math games, speedy shape games and much more. This app allows you to tailor your gaming experience to personal goals like problem-solving, memory, attention and agility. Free in Google Play and iOS app stores.
- Brain Metrix. This is a free web service with a large collection of games focusing on concentration, color, IQ, spatial intelligence, memory and creativity.
These are games that help keep an aging brain fine-tuned with the added benefit that they can be played anywhere, anytime and without anyone else. That being said, I am an advocate of “cross training” for the brain. Aging minds need this sort of mental stimulation but they also need social interaction to promote healthy aging. Healthy longevity and brain health can also benefit from exercise and a healthy diet. All of these elements together can help ensure that our minds remain functional and well-tuned, even as we age. Games by themselves cannot “make you smarter” or “prevent dementia” but they are a great addition to a well-rounded, brain-healthy lifestyle!
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