Activities that serve to train the brain improve learning because of the neuroplasticity of the brain. This means that the brain is not fixed at adulthood, but a person’s cognitive abilities are able to be increased. In the early part of the 20th Century, scientists began to believe that the brain was able to change and in fact was always changing as a result of sensory input and ongoing experiences. This theory of neuroplasticity seemed to increasingly be shown correct. The theory suggests that novel experiences, changes in behavior and learning new skills or information act as stimuli that triggers the brain’s cells to develop new neural pathways or to reorganize established ones.
By 2000, much more scientific study pointed to the validity of the theory that the brain is pliable and not fixed, capable of growing and changing through adulthood. A pivotal study of how this works in the human brain was published in 2000 that examined the brain scans of London taxi drivers who spent two arduous years learning to drive routes along winding and difficult streets. The results showed that the adult males grew larger hippocampuses than did males of the same age. In fact, the drivers with the longest years in service had the largest hippocampuses. As the hippocampus is the area of the brain directly responsible for memory and direction, the data pointed to the brain growth as a direct effect of the intensive learning.
Brain training is based in the scientific studies like this that show the direct correlation between activities that seek to train the brain in particular skills. Brain training and alternately called, “brain games,” have been developed and are in continual study and evolution by cognitive scientists. In 2010, a double blinded Japanese study measured the effect of a brain training game on older adults. The conclusion indicated that playing the Nintendo game “Brain Age” for 4 weeks could contribute to the improvement of cognitive functions such as processing speed and executive brain functions in senior citizens. In just one year, 2013, the government database clinicaltrials.gov published 30 cognitive training studies. “Brain Age” is said to have been inspired by the work in neuroscience by Dr.Kyuto Kawashima as published in his book, “Train Your Brain: 60 Days to a Better Brain. The game won several awards and by September 2015 had sold over 19 million copies worldwide.
While conventional wisdom has indicated that doing puzzles have helped keep an elderly person’s thinking processes sharper, science now validates and has built upon the simple crossword or jigsaw puzzle with digital options.