brainpower

  1. Power your brain with videogames

    Here's a new way to bond with your grandson: Instead of telling him to turn off the videogames and get outside, tell him to move over so you can join him.

    Videogames don't always deserve the bad rap they get, and many of them are more than just mindless fun. They've got plots so rich and elaborate that they rival those of books and movies -- and because you have to move the action forward yourself, they require plenty of brainpower, too.

    That makes them a great way to keep your mind strong, and a new study finds one in particular can help keep yours as sharp as a battle-axe: World of Warcraft.

    Seniors in a new study who spent an hour a day lost in this game's world of warriors, warlocks, and druids showed big-time cognitive improvements over just two weeks when compared to seniors who didn't play the game.

    Even better, the seniors who scored the lowest on tests given at the start of the study actually enjoyed the biggest cognitive leaps -- so if you've felt your own mind slip a bit, you might want to join the online gaming world sooner rather than later.

    One of the reasons WoW is such a brain booster is that it's so involved. It's not just you versus a microchip -- it's a game that places your character into an online world populated by 10 million other human players (even if they don't look quite human on the screen).

    Together, you join these other players in a series of quests and battles that help develop your character -- and these tasks often require knowing a lot more than which button will let you swing your sword or wave your wand.

    They require serious thought, being engaged with the environment and interacting with others -- basic skills that have shown time and again to be brain boosters no matter how you get them.

    If Warcraft doesn't sound like the world for you, then feel free to pick another game -- because at least 20 other studies have found that videogames in general have terrific benefits for the brain.

    You can read more about those brain-boosting video game studies on the website of Healthier Talk.

    Now you'll have to excuse me. I'm being chased by some trolls, and they don't look happy.

  2. Magic hat can boost thinking powers

    It's like something out of a fantasy novel: a magical hat that can boost your cognitive powers.

    But this thinking cap is real--and who knows, maybe someday you might be able to put one on anytime you need a boost in brainpower... or at least when you want to feel smarter while watching "Jeopardy."

    The experimental hat delivers an electrical jolt to the brain, and Australian researchers say it can change how you think--making you better able to solve problems, especially when math is involved.

    And to prove it, the researchers presented 60 people with a series of normally simple math problems that were made far more challenging by the fact that they were done in matchsticks arranged to look like Roman numerals.

    Then, they were told to solve the problems by making a single change.

    Here's one, and if you have any matchsticks around give it a try:

    III = IX--I

    Give up yet?

    The puzzle says 3 = 9--1, which is obviously wrong. But changing the "X" into a "V" turns it into III = IV--I, or 3 = 4--1.

    If you got it right, congratulations--because only 20 percent of the people without thinking caps managed to pull it off.

    Once the juice started flowing through the brain, however, 60 percent solved this and other similar puzzles.

    Researchers say they believe the electrical jolt reduces activity in the region of the brain known as the left anterior temporal lobe, and increases activity in the right.

    And if you're not wearing your own thinking cap at the moment, that simply means the brain balance is altered in a way that allows people to better understand--and solve--mathematical problems.

    This would have come in handy back in high school.

    Of course, the "magic" behind the thinking cap could be the result of something much simpler: An electric jolt just makes you more alert, awake, and focused.

    We won't know for sure until this is studied further.

    And even if the zaps really do boost brainpower, researchers say it would be years before a practical thinking cap is made--if ever.

    But if these things do hit the market, I think they should come with team logos on them. Fans could wear them to the game, and bring their taunting to a cerebral new level: "Your defense-independent pitching statistics tell me you're not nearly as good as your earned-run average indicates!"

    Ballplayers would wish for the good old days of "YOU STINK!"

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