It was once thought that a brain stopped being able to change and adapt efficiently in older people. The saying that an old dog can’t learn new tricks is beginning to be disproved as new research is showing that there is far more neuroplasticity in the brain than previously thought. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to adapt and change to new stimulation, form new neural pathways and alter existing connections. There are several things that can be done to keep the brain adapting and learning over time. Giving the brain a workout, like muscles, is key to keeping it strong and healthy. The three components to giving the brain a workout is to find an activity that is new, challenging, and fun. Something can be intellectually hard but if it’s not new, the brain will not have to work hard to succeed at it. It needs to require effort and expand your knowledge to form new neural pathways and most importantly, it has to be fun. A mental workout in the form of a game can made enjoyable and entertaining. Several Internet sites have started providing memory improvement games but there are countless other ones that are played either with friends or alone away from the computer.
Trivia quizzes are great memory improvement games to play with friends. There are several trivia games on the market, such as Trivial Pursuit, but it’s just as easy, and possibly more fun, to make your own game. To do this, gather a group of friends and have everyone put together a list of questions and answers. The questions can be about anything – history, movies, current events, etc. The first time a group goes through a set of questions, the brain has to recall facts buried deep in the long-term memory. Playing the game with the same set of questions a few weeks later will use a different part of the brain to recall the answers. This part of the brain builds short to medium term memory .
Blind Jigsaw Puzzles
Jigsaw puzzles are often thought to be a pleasant past time but doing them blind will make them into memory improvement games. Spend a few minutes staring at the picture on the puzzle box and memorize as much of it as possible. Then put the box away and put the puzzle together as quickly as possible. This exercise will help train the short-term memory to remember visual stimulation.
Pexeso is a game of matching pairs when one member of the pair is hidden. This can be played either with a set of playing cards or with homemade cards with numbers, letters, pictures, or shapes drawn on them. Place one of each pair face down on a table and then take a look at each hidden card, trying to remember where it is. Then go through the deck of non-hidden cards and try to match them with their hidden pair. When a match is made, remove the pair from circulation. To make this harder, use more cards or start to time yourself with the aim of getting faster each time.
Items get stored in the long-term memory by being connected to other events that are already stored there. An easy way to practice committing things to the long-term memory is by practicing telling stories. A fun game to play with a group is to place a group of objects in the center of a circle and each person tells a simple one-lined story about the object. The next person continues the story and includes a second object from the center. This continues until all the objects are somehow incorporated into the story. At the end, hide all the objects and see who can remember the most objects.
A simple game to play to improve the short-term memory is the kids game Simon that has four differently colored lights that light up in different orders. It starts by lighting up a single light that the user then has to light up afterwards. If they hit the correct color of button, Simon lights up the original light followed by a second light. The user then has to hit the correct light buttons in the correct order. Simon continues to add lights to the sequence until the user cannot remember the order any more.
Memory Flip Games
Simple card flipping games that are often played by children are an excellent way to train the short-term memory. Find a children’s memory game, use portions of two decks of cards, or make your own pairs of identical cards. Place as many cards face down on a table as wanted and flip them over two at a time trying to match them. As you look at card pairs, remember the location of each card and then remove them when a match is made. This game is fun when played with a group or against the clock to make it more challenging.
Keeping the brain working is crucial to maintaining neuroplasticity. Luckily, it can be done through a series of activities and games that are both beneficial and fun. You can find out more about how memory works here.