A new study by researchers from Columbia
University and Duke University published in the journal NEJM Evidence shows
that doing crossword puzzles has an advantage over computer video games for
memory functioning in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.

In a randomized, controlled trial, led by D.P.
Devanand, researchers determined that participants (average age 71) trained in
doing web-based crossword puzzles demonstrated greater cognitive improvement
than those who were trained on cognitive video games.

To conduct their study, researchers at Columbia
and Duke randomly assigned 107 participants with mild cognitive impairment
(MCI) at the two different sites to either crossword puzzles training or
cognitive games training with intensive training for 12 weeks followed by
booster sessions up to 78 weeks. Both interventions were delivered via a
computerized platform with weekly compliance monitoring.

The most striking findings of the trial were:

● Crossword
puzzles were superior to cognitive games on the primary cognitive outcome
measure, ADAS-Cog, at both 12 weeks and 78 weeks. Crossword puzzles were superior on FAQ, a
measure of daily functioning, at 78 weeks.

● Crossword
puzzles were superior for participants at a later disease stage but both forms
of training were equally effective in an earlier stage.

Brain shrinkage (measured with MRI) was less
for crossword puzzles at 78 weeks.

The study also highlights the importance of
engagement. Based on remote electronic monitoring of computer use, participants
at a later stage of impairment may have better engaged with the more familiar
crossword puzzles than with computerized cognitive games.


“Computerized Games Versus Crosswords Training in Mild Cognitive Impairment” 27 October 2022, NEJM Evidence,DOI: 10.1056/EVIDoa2200121

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