What is there to do while remaining home? Consider puzzles.
Puzzles are a great group activity or solo pastime. They are also good for the brain. With the wide variety of puzzle types available, you can challenge different cognitive skills. For example, solving Rubik’s cube enhances your problem-solving skills, and doing a jigsaw puzzle is good for visual perception reasoning (recognizing objects, patterns, and orientation of lines).
It’s no surprise that puzzles invigorate your brain, but they also help relax and calm the mind. When you are focused on solving the puzzle, your mind concentrates only on one task and that encourages your brain to go into a meditative state. This state of mind is characterized by higher gamma wave activation, which is linked to higher cognitive functioning.
What is Gamma Brain Wave
Gamma waves are the most energetic brain waves and are associated with a state of peak performance, or being “in the zone”. The cognitive benefits are:
- Increased memory recall: In a gamma state of mind you can recall information faster, and more vividly.
- Enhanced sensory perception: Senses are heightened and your brain becomes more sensitive to all sensory input, which makes for a richer sensory experience.
- Improved focus and brain processing speed: Your brain is able to enter into a state of enhanced focus. This state of concentration is not necessarily aimed at one thing or task. Instead, your brain is able to process a large amount of information, remember it, and retrieve that memory later.
- Increased happiness: Recent findings have identified gamma activity as a potential biomarker for depression. People suffering from depression usually have low gamma activity.
How to Increase Gamma Output
Your brain produces gamma waves when you are focused or engaged. Furthermore, neuroscientists have discovered that brain photobiomodulation (or tPBM) can stimulate gamma wave production. Animal and human studies have shown the application of light to the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain important for planning and other high-level cognitive tasks, increases gamma activity. An MIT study finds that continued light stimulation not only improves performance on memory tasks but also promotes the brain’s overall neuroprotective effect.
Fissler, P., Küster, O. C., et al. (2018). Jigsaw Puzzling Taps Multiple Cognitive Abilities and Is a Potential Protective Factor for Cognitive Aging. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 10, 299. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2018.00299
Fitzgerald, P. J., & Watson, B. O. (2018). Gamma oscillations as a biomarker for major depression: an emerging topic. Translational psychiatry, 8(1), 177. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-018-0239-y
Lee, D. J., Kulubya, E., et al. (2018). Review of the neural oscillations underlying meditation. Frontiers in Neuroscience. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00178
Martorell A.J., Paulson A.L., et al. (2019). Multi-sensory Gamma Stimulation Ameliorates Alzheimer’s-Associated Pathology and Improves Cognition. Cell. 177(2):256-271.e22. https://doi:10.1016/j.cell.2019.02.014