Had you read this article ten years ago, you would probably have learned more and remembered it longer. Age-related cognitive decline is nearly universal. Neural cells atrophy and die, and the synapses that connect them and transfer information from one area of the brain to another irreversibly deteriorate with age. It’s harder to recall names and process information, solve thorny problems, and multi-task. It may happen much sooner than you think, too: A 2009 University of Virginia study of 2,000 adults showed that some brain skills, like the ability to make fast comparisons, peak at age 22, and memory loss can begin as early as 37.
Which is why it’s little surprise that the brain game industry is as big as it, with tens of millions of players memorizing grid patterns, spotting birds in ever-changing formations, or being prompted to think of as many words as possible that begin with “comm” The games might help: Their ability to stall the degenerative effects of aging, are “plausible, but not proven,” says Barry Gordon, a professor of cognitive science at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “Doing a lot of crossword puzzles will make you really good at crossword puzzles,” he adds. “But you can develop and challenge your brain reading the Washington Post cover-to-cover,” Gordon says.
Which is why you might want to first turn to the bigger tools you have to keep you sharp — low-tech lifestyle upgrades that are proven to keep your brain healthy, and even make it stronger.