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Playing games can help the brain

Playing games or doing puzzles may help stave off Alzheimer's disease, a new study suggests.

The research, which was presented to the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Copenhagen, found that these kinds of brain-stimulating activities could help to preserve vulnerable brain structures and cognitive functions.

People who spend more time playing mentally-stimulating games are also more likely to perform better in learning, memory and information processing tests, researchers said.

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But charity Alzheimer's Research UK said that while the study contributes to the "use it or lose it" debate, it does not confirm whether or not playing such games prevents the condition.

The researchers, from Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute and the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, examined 329 people with an average age of 60 who were healthy but deemed to be at a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease due to their genetic background or family history.

They performed a series of tests on them including brain scans and a number of cognitive assessments. Meanwhile the participants were asked how often they took part in activities like reading books, going to museums and playing cards.

The researchers found people who reported playing games such as cards, draughts and crosswords, were more likely to have a greater brain volume in several regions involved in Alzheimer's disease and higher scores on cognitive tests. They concluded that for some individuals participating in games could help prevent Alzheimer's disease.

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