Can Brain Games Improve Memory?

An older adult woman in her sweater solving a crossword puzzle.

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Brain games have been a staple in our lives for many years, ranging from traditional crosswords and puzzles to modern digital memory training and problem-solving exercises. They are often touted as tools for enhancing memory and warding off cognitive decline. But the question remains: do they truly deliver on these promises?

Both digital and traditional brain games, when paired with a healthy lifestyle, appear to be promising tools for enhancing various facets of cognitive function, including memory.

At Juniper, we recognize the challenges that older adults residing in older adult living communities may encounter in maintaining optimal cognitive function. This is why we offer a variety of engaging and stimulating programs and events nearly every day. Our primary goal is to assist our residents in achieving a high-quality life and optimal functionality.

Understanding Memory

Before diving into the science of brain games, it’s important to get a handle on memory. Memory is not just one concept but rather a bunch of processes responsible for encoding, storing, and retrieving information. These processes are interconnected and can be influenced by various factors, including genetics, lifestyle choices, and cognitive engagement.


Encoding is how we get information into our brain. Think of it as setting up a new file on your computer. You’re taking in info through your senses and then transforming it into a format your brain can understand and use.


Storage is where your brain keeps that info. It’s like saving that new file on your computer’s hard drive. Your brain stores different types of info in different ways and in various parts of the brain.


Retrieval is when you need to use that info. It’s like opening that saved file when you need it. Your brain pulls the info from storage so you can use it.

Effectiveness of Brain Games for Memory Improvement

There is considerable debate about the effectiveness of brain training games in preventing memory loss and cognitive decline. Some studies indicate they can enhance cognitive function, while others don’t find any significant benefits.

Some studies show that taking part in mentally stimulating activities can positively impact memory, particularly in older adults. This could be because these activities help the brain form new neural connections, a process known as neuroplasticity

Other research points out the limits of brain games. For instance, a 2019 study in “Psychological Science” discovered that while brain training games can help you get better at the tasks they focus on, these gains often don’t carry over to wider cognitive skills, including memory.

Brain Games vs. Brain Training

It’s important to differentiate between games that claim to be “brain training” and those that genuinely aim to augment cognitive skills like attention, memory, and reasoning. The latter have typically undergone rigorous clinical trials. Those merely labeled as “brain training” may simply be designed for entertainment.

Brain games are activities like Sudoku, crosswords, quizzes, and word problems.

Lifelong Learning & Memory Improvement

An older adult man playing a guitar while sitting on a couch.

Arguably, the best approach to memory enhancement involves lifelong learning and cognitive engagement. Instead of fixating solely on brain games, individuals can focus on continuous learning, adopting new hobbies, and engaging in programs that stretch their cognitive abilities.

Learning a musical instrument, practicing a new language, or exploring topics outside one’s comfort zone can all contribute to enhanced memory function.

Embrace a Fulfilled Life

Brain games can provide a measure of cognitive stimulation and entertainment. However, it’s important to note that they are not a guaranteed method for substantial, long-term memory improvement. The complexity of the human brain is influenced by numerous factors, including genetics and lifestyle.At Juniper, we provide an environment rich in social connections, activities, and events, ensuring there is something for everyone. Experience the benefits of residing with Juniper. Schedule a tour of our community options today!

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