I needed to speak to my brother about getting together for a night out. We live some way apart and so such things take a bit of arranging. He asked me not to ring him until after nine as he was watching Only Connect. It’s not a game show that I have ever got into yet clearly it was one of his favourites.
Is game show too much of a pejorative for a show of such obvious high quality and mental challenge as Only Connect? Would I get sneered at by those who watch it for even suggesting that it was such a thing? Their web site describes it as a quiz show in which connections must be made between apparently unconnected things.
I rang him and asked if he had scored many points. He laughed and went on to tell me that it had been quite a difficult show and that finding the connections had not been that easy. He said though that it is good to keep your brain active. That made me laugh because it made me think how much he is really like me. We worry about our brain capacity.
I kid myself that trying to learn foreign languages is good for my brain. I have evidence to back my claims up though. A Swedish study has proven that people who learn foreign languages have bigger brains. Learning a language causes key parts of the brain to grow larger. Linguists have long known that mastery of another language changes the way you think, but now I have scientific proof that it also changes the very fabric of the brain.
All those hours were not wasted then. I may need to get bigger doors in the house.
We are not alone though. Do you remember all those brain training apps that started out with the Nintendo handheld consoles such as Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day? Challenging your brain with different activities on a regular basis, it was claimed, would lead to an improved cognitive ability. Is there any evidence for this? It would seem to be sketchy at best with some limited improvements in older age groups.
Research funded by the Alzheimer Society found that playing the games, which challenge people on reasoning and problem solving, can help people over 60 to get on better with their daily activities over 6 months. The researchers also saw improvements in reasoning and verbal learning skills in those over 50.
Both my brother and I are in that age group.