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Brain Games by Gary Small, M.D.


Around the corner from your fitness center, you just might find a brain gym with a bunch of Baby Boomers working a bank of computers to tweak their neural circuits. These kinds of mental workouts are becoming popular because of scientific evidence supporting the connection between brain health and mental stimulation. Although this research still has a way to go, Americans are embracing the idea that you can probably strengthen your brain cells through games, puzzles, and other exercises, just as we build muscle by exercising our bodies.

Here are the principles behind the brain games that I recommend in my books:

1. Train but don't strain your brain. Enjoy puzzles that challenge you, but aren't too difficult. That way you won't get frustrated or bored.

2. Cross-train your brain. Most of us like variety, so alternate your workouts between right-brain (visual/spatial) and left-brain (verbal/logical) games.

3. Have fun as you build your skills. If the games you are playing are not fun, then you won't continue to play and get a chance to improve.

Here are a few samples of brain games to get you started (answers are at the end of the post):

Right-brain warm-up Figure out the number of squares in the following figure (Hint: Include squares that incorporate smaller squares).
Count the squares
Left-brain warm-up Begin with the word LARD and change one letter at a time until you get to the word SANE. Each one-letter change must form a proper word:
Change the letter
Bilateral brain buster An extraterrestrial pod lands on your front lawn. You try to ignore it, but every day it keeps doubling in size. After 10 days, it completely covers your lawn. How many days did it take to cover half the lawn?
Math fun Which number is the odd one in the following rectangle?
Math fun
Word generation See how many words of 3 or more letters you can come up with from the following letters:
Word generation
Word generation Let your mind naturally correct the errors in the following sentence so it makes sense.
Mind correct
Hidden proverb See if you can recognize the following proverb (you'll first need to replace all of the vowels):
hidden proverb
Word sorting Identifying patterns often involves determining whether an item belongs to a particular group. In the following list, you'll note three types of items. See how quickly you can identify the groups and sort the items:
Word sorting
Hidden states The jumbled letters below contain two U.S. states. See how quickly you can find them.
Hidden states
Numbers game. What number completes this sequence?
Numbers game
Answer key:
Answer key

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