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Can Your Daily Sudoku Habit Help Make You Smarter?

Sudoku is one of the most popular games in the world, and for a good reason. There’s no shortage of puzzles you can solve, with a total of more than 1 billion different ones out there. Because of that, it’s estimated that more than 100 million people in the United States alone play Sudoku regularly, with more than half of the country trying it at least once. Needless to say, Sudoku isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, the original idea of Sudoku has been around since the late 19th century, though it didn’t really start to take off until the late 1990s.

To play Sudoku, you need to use logical reasoning to make sure that the entire grid is filled out with numbers 1 through 9 in each row, column, and box. It’s a real brain teaser of a game, which begs the question: Can your daily Soduko habit help make you smarter? After all, numbers and logic come into play, and that alone calls for high intelligence to decipher. Let’s take a look at what science has shown about Sudoku and its link to an increase in intelligence.

Benefitting the Elderly

A study published by the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry set out to find if there was an increase in cognitive function for Sudoku players aged 50 to 93. Over 19,000 people volunteered for the study, with those playing the puzzles every day found to have a cognitive function that was nearly a decade younger than their actual age.

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Dr. Anne Corbett was the head author of the study, and she said that “The improvements are particularly clear in the speed and accuracy of their performance. In some areas, the improvement was quite dramatic…We can’t say that playing these puzzles necessarily reduces the risk of dementia in later life, but this research supports previous findings that indicate regular use of word and number puzzles helps keep our brains working better for longer.”

Refuting Evidence?

While that particular study did show that cognitive function was improved for the elderly who play Sudoku on a daily basis, there are some that have said that playing these games doesn’t improve intelligence. Western University in London, Ontario, Canada had a much smaller study to refute the evidence, using just over 70 people.

Over the course of 20 days, one group spent a total of 13 hours playing puzzle games including Sudoku while the other group didn’t play any puzzle games. At the beginning and end, both groups took an IQ test, and the scores didn’t improve noticeably. “We (thought) that if you get really good at one test and train for a really long time, maybe then you’ll get improvement on tests that are similar,” author Bobby Stojanoski said. “Unfortunately, there’s just no evidence to support that claim…Sleep better, exercise regularly, eat better. Education is great. That’s the sort of thing we should be working on.”

An Overall Benefit

So while Sudoku won’t make you smarter in the general sense of being able to achieve higher scores on an IQ test, it does help your brain in a lot of different ways. We already touched on how it can improve your cognitive function when you’re older, but you don’t have to wait until you’re 50 to get the benefits of playing Sudoku.

Those that play on a daily basis are found to have better concentration and memory function, while also tending to be happier. Sudoku helps to stimulate the brain, releasing beneficial hormones that improve brain health. You’re always learning something, and when you finish a puzzle, there’s a huge sense of accomplishment. Even though it’s just a puzzle on a piece of paper or computer/phone screen, that’s still enough to make your day a little better.

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