Doing Puzzles, Playing Checkers Could Avert Alzheimer's

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Engaging in activities that stimulate the brain may not only be fun, they may help ward off the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Older individuals who engaged in activities such as doing crosswords or playing checkers were less likely to have the disease, according to research presented by Stephanie Schultz, BS, of the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

She reported that the size of brain structures, such as the hippocampus and the posterior cingulate, differed greatly between those that regular engaged in cognitive activities versus those who did not. Her research was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen this week.

For example, differences in brain area volume were as follows:

  • Hippocampal volume: 3,900 mm3 versus 4,010 mm3 (P=0.028)
  • Posterior cingulate volume: 3,190 mm3 versus 3,320 mm3 (P=0.012)
  • Rostral anterior cingulate volume: 2,390 mm3 versus 2,540 mm3 (P=0.001)


  • Caudal anterior cingulate volume: 2,025 mm3 versus 2,130 mm3 (P=0.021)
  • Rostral middle frontal volume: 15,050 mm3 versus 15,430 mm3 (P=0.042)
  • Caudal middle frontal volume: 6,160 mm3 versus 6,540 mm3 (P=0.002)

“Our findings suggest that, for some individuals, engagement in cognitively stimulating activities, especially those involving games such as puzzles and cards, might be a useful approach for preserving brain structures and cognitive functions that are vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease,” Schultz said.

Doing Puzzles, Playing Checkers Could Avert Alzheimer's
Doing Puzzles, Playing Checkers Could Avert Alzheimer's

People who frequently engaged in cognitively-stimulating activities had greater volumes in key brain areas that may protect against Alzheimer's disease-related outcomes, researchers reported here.

Stephanie Schultz, BS, from the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, reported that volumes of structures such as the hippocampus and posterior cingulate differed significantly between older individuals who frequently performed activities such as playing cards or checkers or doing crosswords or other puzzles and those who spent less time in these activities.

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