Dear Dr. Roach: Are all puzzles created equal in terms of their value in keeping the mind sharp? I enjoy Sudoku and word-finding puzzles, with an occasional crossword puzzle thrown in. I also play games requiring puzzle solving on my computer or handheld device. My partner primarily enjoys crossword puzzles. This has been something I’ve wondered about for a while, but in this day of health crisis with more people engaging in puzzle solving, I thought I would ask.
Answer: Puzzles are fun and keep the mind active. Although there is no evidence supporting the idea that doing puzzles of any kind can prevent Alzheimer’s dementia, there is strong evidence that interventions — an action done to improve a certain problem — taken targeting specific cognitive abilities can lead to long-lasting improvements in those abilities. A particularly well-done trial showed that interventions designed to improve performance in three areas (memory, reasoning and speed of processing) improved function in that specific area for five years.