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People who do a daily crossword have sharper brains as they grow older, a major study suggests.
Completing the tricky word puzzles often found in the middle of newspapers helps boost attention, reasoning and memory, British experts say.
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They estimate by taking part in the challenging quizzes adults can stop their brains ageing by 10 years.
Despite not going as far as saying crosswords could prevent dementia, significant links between keeping the brain healthy in old age and a reduced risk of the devastating disease have been uncovered in recent years.
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The 'very exciting' findings, led by Exeter University and Kings College London, were based on data from more than 17,000 participants.
Professor Keith Wesnes, from the University of Exeter, said further research is needed to back-up their initial results.
He added: 'We found direct relationships between the frequency of word puzzle use and the speed and accuracy of performance on nine cognitive tasks assessing a range of aspects of function including attention, reasoning and memory.
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'Performance was consistently better in those who reported engaging in puzzles, and generally improved incrementally with the frequency of puzzle use.
'For example, on test measures of grammatical reasoning speed and short-term memory accuracy, performing word puzzles was associated with an age-related reduction of around 10 years.
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'We now need to follow up this very exciting association in a clinical trial, to establish whether engaging in puzzles results in improvement in brain function.'
How was the study carried out?
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For one of the largest study of its kind, researchers asked volunteers how frequently they played word puzzles such as crosswords in an online trial.
Tests from the CogTrackTM and Protect online cognitive test systems were used to assess core aspects...
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