We love brain teasers. They are both a great escape from the daily grind and a surprisingly healthy waste of time. Brain teasers can help build strong mental muscles and postpone the effects of aging and mind numbing jobs.
We found this super fun and super hard test, and we still have not quite figured it out. The premise is simple enough, but just take the test yourself to see how hard counting squares can really be.
That puzzle was a doozy, but if you came up with the correct number, good for you! Since puzzles are so much fun, we decided to take a look at how they can affect mental function and improve our brain brawn.
Our memories improve to a point and then start to get weaker as we age. Puzzles both improve the connection between existing brain cells and create new connections that speed up your recollection and and improve your ability to make logical connections between stored memories. Jigsaw puzzles are especially good exercises for short term memory, for kids and adults alike because in order to solve them, you have to remember the size, shape, and color of each piece as well as the overall image you are trying to reconstruct.
Creativity is also helped by doing puzzles. Solving a good puzzle requires “out of the box” thinking. Even when initially incorrect, you gain experiential knowledge that will eventually led to success. This is the core of the scientific method, and by forming a theory and then testing it you merge imagination and deductive reasoning. All of which leads to greater problem solving and inventiveness in every field.
Many of us think of ourselves as “big picture people” or define ourselves in terms of “left” or “right” brained approaches to life. Puzzles encourage the player to use many different skills simultaneously, such as logic and creativity, and as these different sections of the brain work together, the brain is training itself to perform in an integrated, holistic manner. Thus, you become more able to see creative approaches to logical problems like math, and can apply deductive reasoning when engaged in creative endeavors.
Puzzle also affect the chemistry factory in brain to produce neurotransmitters that enable communication within the brain and with the rest of your central nervous system. Foremost among these is the chemical Dopamine, which can improve concentration and focus, enhance motor skills, stronger memory, and can greatly improve your mood. Dopamine is released in various measures in response to little and big breakthroughs, the “aha” moments that often accompany puzzle play. It is tied to reward driven learning, which means that every time your brain does something right, it gets more of the stuff. This is probably also why we keep dropping quarters into the slots, and check our inboxes, so it is probably important to tie the Dopamine production to useful endeavors.