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Puzzle-solving 'doesn't slow down mental decline in older people' (nhs.uk)
303 points by open-source-ux 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 107 comments

This is a fascinating share, if not for the results—"None of the measures of intellectual engagement was linked to the speed of decline of people's mental abilities over time"—but for the study itself.

"Many people also dropped out of the study. Only 96 of the 498 people recruited took part in the last round of testing. The researchers lost touch with 13 people, while 57 people died and 332 declined to take part."

Do studies like this often reach the front page of HN?

This is a cohort study conducted over 15 years. You can't really criticize it only based on those numbers, at least not without looking at similar numbers from other cohort studies with the same length.

I tend to ascribe some value to "It was published in the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal."

Additional thought: Especially because it is essentially supporting the null hypothesis.

You can't really criticize it only based on those numbers, at least not without looking at similar numbers from other cohort studies with the same length.

Well, one can't criticize the quality of the study without looking how well other studies did. But even if all studies involve a massive drop-out rate, the drop-out rate still seems like something to look at in evaluating the accuracy of the study.

I mean my concern, looking from the outside, isn't relative accuracy, but absolute accuracy. Not "is it as good as other studies?" but "it is good enough that I can rely on it?"

> "it is good enough that I can rely on it?"

It's called longitudinal analysis or survival analysis, depending on the question being asked.

We statistician got test and models for these.

You can rely on it if the people who are conducting the experiment are competent and know what they're doing.

15 -years- is a LONG time for a study. I'm not sure about the dropout rates, but it is a real statistical issue. I'm just not sure there's anything that can reasonably be done about it. You'd have to have something like federally mandated participation / continued participation. That's also very unlikely to pass ethics boards.

BTW, it would also be an issue if the subjects were compensated to the point that they differed from the actual population at large.

Fundamentally having more respect for doing things right, the right way, over the /long/ term, including the STEM fields, would be a 'good thing' for any society, but particularly western ones (where often the bad/evil antagonist is based on science or a cold lack of emotions; but the protagonist is based mostly on emotion and feeling instead of logic).

15 -years- is a LONG time for a study. I'm not sure about the dropout rates, but it is a real statistical issue. I'm just not sure there's anything that can reasonably be done about it.

Everyone keeps replying as if my comments imply a demand that "something be done about this". That's not my point. Maybe nothing can be done about it. The situation is still significant or at least appears significant.

Similarly, it may be that running studies like this is really difficult and that massively reduced sample sizes are something we must accept for practical reasons... but that doesn’t mean it permits us to ignore statistical ramifications

There is nothing more frustrating than doing things you are bad at, regularly, especially if you are bound to get somewhat worse as time goes on. To your point, even if that were the reason for a significant number of departures, it would not go against the conclusion.

Sounds like a use case ripe for game developers to jump on to.

> This is a cohort study conducted over 15 years. You can't really criticize it only based on those numbers

You absolutely can.

Scientific studies should be judged on their potential to produce interesting results. This study has too small a sample size to provide results that merit making even the weakest claims about. Even the initial sample size was, frankly, just barely large enough to maybe provide suggestions for future research.

If a meaningful drop-out rate is expected, I would argue that the researchers running these sorts of studies are mostly wasting everyone's time and money for the sake of publishing a few papers.


a rate of drop-out like that would certainly make me doubtful of the results of the study. It seems reasonably likely that people dropped-out in a fashion that would be weighted in one way or another.

There are some ways to adjust and counteract these effects (it's an issue with every clinical trial on serious illnesses and older populations though).

A reference: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3227332/

Sometimes, you have to trust the quality of the journal and biostatistician if you aren't able to read everything yourself.

for sure.. but I expect the real results to be worse (though this is purely speculative on my part), as I can only imagine people with steeper intellectual decline being more likely to drop out

Its mentioned in the paper: "However, recruitment to and retention in cognitive ageing studies is also affected by self selection to volunteer among better educated individuals who are ageing well, which is also true of our study. Thus, the findings might be biased towards those individuals with higher cognitive performance."

Thanks for finding that. I was about to read the paper, looking for something like that.

I immediately thought the same. Then I thought about for a bit longer and quickly came up with an equal number of reasons why participants experiencing more rapid mental decline might stick it out. Really no way to know.

Maybe, but given the huge dropout rate I don't see how we can conclude anything from this study. Of course, that would also be true if it had reached the opposite conclusion.

Or people with less decline are more busy, have less motivation to stay in touch with a study that doesn't feel relevant since they're healthy?

Have you ever taken these sorts of tests? They are not fun. Many questions are childish. Others make you feel stupid for not getting them right. Both extremes are necessary to the study.

I'm reminded of a study using the Nintendo Wii to help keep elderly people mobile. 90+% of them stopped playing immediately, within days, of the researchers leaving.

Have you ever taken these sorts of tests? They are not fun. Many questions are childish. Others make you feel stupid for not getting them right. Both extremes are necessary to the study.

So you're saying it's logical that a lot of people dropped out? Seems reasonable.

But that doesn't mean that you wouldn't have the problem of the high drop-out rate implying the final people remaining are biased sample. When you are filtering a large number of people down to a small number, making sure that small number is representative of the large number is a hard problem.

Maybe there's no solution or no easy solution. Doesn't change the problem.

> They are not fun. Many questions are childish. Others make you feel stupid for not getting them right. Both extremes are necessary to the study.

If that's the case, then the test should say this in the instructions... (It's a classic example of setting expectations, introducing objections up front..)

> This test may not feel exciting. Some questions could seem childish. Other questions could make people feel silly for marking the incorrect answer. These extremes are required for the study.

Maybe they dropped out because they were failing the tests of mental abilities, and were too frustrated and embarrassed to continue. But one would think that the authors had explored that.

Edit: Yes, they did. See ojbyrne's comment.

>The researchers lost touch with 13 people, while 57 people died and 332 declined to take part."

This is one of the major downsides to longitudinal studies— people are unpredictable.

I wonder if we'll see that change with the proliferation of communication across so many mediums. Between mail, email, texting, voice, social media, etc. staying in touch with a cohort might be much easier and more sustainable.

They lost touch with 2.6% of the participants. There is not much room for improvement there.

You can ask the same question about the NHS.

You mean "Does the NHS often reach the front page of HN?"?

.. I don't get it, why would you ask that?

Comment was about the research reaching the news section of the NHS.

www.nhs.uk/news exists specifically to debunk false health claims

(I'm tech lead for this site)

Thought this was a great site. Then I looked for the rss feed. Still good but...

We syndicate our content in a different way: https://developer.api.nhs.uk/

Anecdotally, my neighbor is in her early 80s and has lived a very sheltered life.

Recently she did a memory test and nearly aced it (28/30). Since then my typically... well, clueless... neighbor has taken an interest in learning how to use stuff like her TV, stereo, talking about better ways to do things around the yard, etc.

Even with my own mother, the true benefit of puzzles is not that its exercising her brain or making her smarter, but its the confidence that goes along with being successful in these things. I think that goes a long way, even though it may be just a step above sugar pills.

For me, I play Simon Tatham's Portable Puzzle Collection (mobile) every day. I have a cycle I go through. If I'm having a bad day, a good win at Galaxies gets me back into the 'you can do this' mindset.

[1] https://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/puzzles/

In this study, they detect a correlation between exercise and mental ability, but it is not clear which one is the cause and which one is the effect. Perhaps people with very advanced mental decline can't follow any class of exercise.

>> Our results suggest that moderate to intense exercise may help older people delay aging of the brain, but more research from randomized clinical trials comparing exercise programs to more sedentary activity is needed to confirm these results.

It could also be that factors present earlier in life influence exercise habits and cognitive decline on different time scales. For example, it's not a huge leap to imagine that some inborn deficit in neurotransmitter function could promote both of these outcomes without necessarily leading to any clinical diagnosis.

There were some research results a few years ago that indicated that dancing does that very well (and particularly the role of follower in partner dancing, because you have to react quickly to small cues). Don't have a link ready, sorry. I'd be curious if that has been reproduced yet.

Exercise is most effective in slowing mental decline when done consistently. I'd wager that's why dancing is so efficacious -- you're mixing vigorous exercise with fun, and folks are more likely to consistently exercise when it's fun.

I got my genes sequenced recently and it turns out I have a mutant gene that predisposes me to Alzheimers - APOE e4. it's a cholesterol shuttling gene! Very important to keep low fat, it effects your entire body.

It is not really a mutant gene, just one of the variant genes found in the human population. Unfortunately the APOE4 variant is rather bad to have and a major risk factor for Alzheimers.

Are you homo or heterozygous for E4?


That is good. Your risk is higher, but nowhere near as high as for homozygous E4 carriers. Assuming you are youngish it is a problem a long way off and with luck there will be progress in curing or preventing Alzheimer's before you really have to worry.

I hadn’t heard that body fat composition affected Alzheimer’s risk. Out of curiosity, do you have a reference?

Body fat is a risk for multiple disease. The general idea is that whenever viruses enter the adipose tissue they are hard to reach by the immune system. We dont really understand yet what causes Alzheimer but now there is suspicion of a viral link.

There is another hypothesis making the rounds that obesity is linked to chronic metabolic stress and eventual damage (so far uncontroversial), which is linked to many separate diseases.

internet articles point fingers at long term insulin resistance, e.g. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/diagnosis-diet/20160...

the receptors responsible for escorting insulin across the blood-brain barrier can become resistant to insulin, restricting the amount of insulin allowed into the brain. While most brain cells don’t require insulin in order to absorb glucose, they do require insulin in order to process glucose. [..] Despite swimming in a sea of glucose, brain cells in people with insulin resistance literally begin starving to death. [..] Which brain cells go first? The hippocampus is the brain's memory center. Hippocampal cells require so much energy to do their important work that they often need extra boosts of glucose. While insulin is not required to let a normal amount of glucose into the hippocampus, these special glucose surges do require insulin, making the hippocampus particularly sensitive to insulin deficits. This explains why declining memory is one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s, despite the fact that Alzheimer’s Disease eventually destroys the whole brain.

researchers have discovered that Alzheimer’s Disease is preceded by DECADES of gradually worsening glucose hypometabolism.

2012 study showed that a low-carbohydrate high-fat diet improved memory in people with “Mild Cognitive Impairment” (Pre-Alzheimer’s Disease) in only six weeks.

https://coconutketones.com/ - Dr Mary Newport's work on coconut oil and low carb diet with her husband with early onset alzheimers and dementia, intended to provide an alternative ketone source of fuel for the brain instead of glucose.

Grain and sugar elimination: that’s huge, because it’s anti-inflammatory. A big driver of cognitive decline and dementia is inflammation. By going grain-free sugar-free we drop inflammation dramatically. If you were to track inflammatory measures like C-reactive protein or interleukin-6 or tumor necrosis factor (TNFα) or other measures, you would see them drop precipitously, as inflammation recedes, and risk for Alzheimer’s with it. - https://www.wheatbellyblog.com/2017/11/preventing-cognitive-...

Alzheimer's is starting to be referred to as Type 3 diabetes that the correlation between metabolic syndrome and the disease is incredibly high.

I wonder how much this has to do with the relative uptake of carbohydrate sources and in particular refined sugars (namely fructose) in the typical diet. It seems the more that we learn, the less good refined vegetable oils and the level of fructose intake in people's diets is. I'm not convinced the amount of refined grains people eat is particularly good either.

However is seems that sugar (fructose specifically) and refined oils (linoleic acid specifically) are particularly bad in the increased quantities since the early 1900's.

Which service did you use for gene sequencing?


Related question, is there any service or open source tool people use to get more thorough insights on the raw data you can download from 23 and me?

I'm not sure there is such a service. You can download the raw data on 23andme, it's just a bunch of SNPs though. I'm not sure there's much known about them other than what's already flagged by their service.

There's a actually a lot more info than what they show you. They won't show you something depending on many factors including FDA approval, etc. So there's a potential whole lot of information that you are missing out if you don't run your data through other services and tools.

I did a google search and found a bunch of resources, but I though some ppl here may have actual experiences to share.

low fat as in to not be overweight, or consume a diet that is low in fat? I don't want any of them 'zheimers

tangent: low-fat diets don't actually help with weight loss

Well, partially true. Fat is very energy rich so low fat diets will typically have less calories and calories are basically the only thing you need to worry about when trying to lose weight.

On the flip side protein in particular is very sating, and protein + fat (in the absence of carbs) has a much lower insulin response. So a higher fat diet with protein sources will have an increased satiety.

Calories do count, but hormonal response is a primary factor.

Edit: it's worth noting that a certain amount of fat is absolutely needed and is sating in and of itself.

Personally, I don't think the amount of fat you get (in terms of calories) should be lower than the amount of protein you consume, and should come from better sources excluding refined vegetable oils (which are everywhere). My opinion on this is somewhat based on the relative amounts of fat to protein in sources where you get protein naturally. I also feel that not getting enough fat is a big factor in gallbladder dysfunction and stones.

A lot of my opinions are just from common sense, observation and a lot of reading on relatively recent diet and nutrition shifts, and feel levels/extremes can vary based on general health, metabolic syndrome indicators and outright diabetic progression.

I'd be curious as to any correlation with sugar and/or refined oil intake.

My armchair analysis suspects that it is chemicals like cortisol will degrade the brain over time, while dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin will help preserve it. So stress and anxiety bad, exercise good.

Completely off topic, but I appreciate you properly citing your source. I hate when people make absolute claims off no factual evidence. Even just "I heard ______ " is a perfectly acceptable comment imo.

I am presuming that you are not being sarcastic. I am being totally transparent that this is nothing more than an internal hunch based on some very amateur time investment is hardly related fields. Literally nothing worth taking note of except to spur conversation from somebody who may know more. That said, boldy professing incorrectly seems to spur more good debate on the Internet than boldy professing my claim is not backed by anything.

cortisol? why not glutamate ? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excitotoxicity

Good point. Also stress related among many other contributors.

FWIW, I told a good friend to get her dementia-diagnosed father on a schedule of daily Dual N-Back training using open source programs (e.g. Brainworkshop). She asked his neurologist how effective this would be and he basically said, "it's the only cognitive training that could do anything."

Not only is Dual N-Back a great mental workout, but it will also put you to sleep pretty quickly if you set the parameters such that the task is sufficiently taxing. Here's one that should make you tired within 15-20 mins. if you're just starting out:

(1) Set N-Back to 3 (for every category of items that you have to remember, you are trying to remember the repeats in a string that have two items in between)

(2) Set number of item categories to 3 (e.g. Shapes, Sounds, Spatial/Placement, and Colors)

(3) Up the baseline 'randomness' factor or level of pattern obscurity.

I cannot overstate how important (2) is. So many people in the N-Back community care about maxing out (1). IMHO, the real benefits come when you get (2) maxed out while keeping an N-Back of 3. THEN, work your way to up to higher levels of N-Back.

You have a one in a billion short-term memory capacity and don't feel sleepy yet? Okay, throw in some multiple mentalism exercises while literally in the middle of doing the N-Back training. Ex.: visually 'recite' the alphabet backwards in your head with the letters being in mirror image format (so from 'behind').

You'll find it impoasible to get even remotely close to 80% accuracy if you turn the various parameters up high enough, and you'll have an easy way of falling asleep.

That seems like quite a strong claim. This would need to be supported by extraordinary empirical evidence. It's rather difficult for us to independently verify your friend's neurologist's word. Do you perhaps have some scientific studies to hand which might demonstrate the efficacy of this treatment?

My claim is only that a single neurologist said if any cognitive training might help, then N-Back training would be it. I have no other evidence other than my friend's testimony. Say the neurologist did say this, what's the implication? That you have defeasible justification for trying N-Back training, on recently diagnosed dementia patients, if you've already made the decision that cognitive training is worth pursuing (along with other treatments).

Hearsay and anecdote are not useful for determining the empirical validity of a theory or therapy. I don't know you, and I have no idea if your reporting is accurate, or if so, who this neurologist might have been, or whether they are trustworthy, and even if they are, I don't have any information as to whether this specific opinion is sound. Without empirical evidence, there is no objective reason to believe any part of this claim.

You are right that hearsay and anecdote are not useful for determining the empirical validity of a theory or therapy. However, hearsay and anecdote have been useful a million times over in helping people solve problems or challenges they've faced at certain times and in certain places (whether fully or partially).

People you don't know will tell you things like, "Do crossword puzzles. That will keep you sharp." I'm someone you don't know, and I'm telling you, "If you've decided to do some cognitive training, you should give N-Back training a try in the manner I described."

Maybe it will help you sleep on a night where you have trouble sleeping. Maybe it helps your mental acuity. Maybe nothing. Maybe it will be a waste of 30 minutes for you.

I have no idea why you think that any of this might be persuasive. Do you really do what random people on the Internet tell you, with no evidence, just because they say it's a good idea? And were I to accept this proposal, there are no conditions for success or failure: a willing mind would make for any number of post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacies.

Empiricism is a much more reliable way to know things than hearsay: this is the general reason for the push towards evidence-based medicine. There is every reason to reject unproven therapies, and what you are offering can not be distinguished from fiction. If you want to make a convincing case for this, you have no alternative but empirical evidence.

Personally, if programming, playing an instrument, drawing, learning languages, and studying mathematics, physics, and history aren't enough to keep my mind sharp, I'm probably not going to worry too much about it.

I'm not sure what your argument is.

This is an example of hearsay and anecodote:

"Hey Joe, this brand of probiotic worked well for me. You should give it a try."

After hearing that, should Joe then look for meta-analyses of the effectiveness of different probiotic brands, or does he have defeasible justification for trying it out? Maybe you'll say a search for meta-analyses is too stringent, but that you could at least look at anonymous reviews on Amazon. Fine. Then go look at collections of anonymous anecdotal reports in the N-Back community.

You keep trying to describe a form of rigid empiricism, as-if I don't actually know or care about epistemology. I did a concentration in philosophy of science in undergrad, and was an editor/reviewer for an entry on the philosophy of science in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I'm not unfamiliar with empiricism.

Joe should ignore unproven therapies, particularly when accompanied by grandiose claims, and especially when the proponent refuses point-blank to substantiate said claims. Probiotics are another good example of an unproven therapy, but with substantially more evidence against their efficacy. Joe should certainly read meta-analyses about such things, and avoid quackery -- and others should avoid spreading quackery.

Is there any scientific evidence behind "the real benefits come when you get (2) maxed out while keeping an N-Back of 3"? Sounds really curious to know.

Nothing but a small set of scattered anecdotal evidence from people in the N-Back community. I would be interested in an actual study on this.

BTW what is the definition of "'randomness' factor or level of pattern obscurity"?

Two different examples representing two different dimensions to this:

(1) Say you're doing a minute long session and trying to catch auditory letter repeats that are supposed to occur around 5-8 times. On more fully featured N-Back progams you can reduce that number, so that only 1-2 repeats (say) occur. This can make it more difficult for some people because they hear too many false positives (if that makes any sense).

(2) You can change up the default parameters so that repeats are more finely staggered. For instance, take the following two strings:

AHJADCBWPORP (repeats are A and P)

AHPACPWBORJD (repeats are A and P)

The default setting for some programs will just create the first type of string, which can make it more predictable, and thus less mentally taxing. You can tune the parameters so that you get more strings like the second.

This is a nice study, and confirms earlier work by Tim Salthouse (University of Virginia [1]), looking at more than a thousand people (cross-sectionally), and evaluating their cognitive function and crossword puzzling activity. At every age, people who did more crossword puzzles had better cognitive activity - but the rate of cognitive decline was identical regardless of crossword puzzle use. This was interpreted (as in the current study) as showing that people who are sharper do more crossword puzzles - but doing crossword puzzles doesn't make a person shaper or change the rate at which a person becomes less sharp.

[1] PDF: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/5237/69252dd1d49cbd473844c0...

As an aside, the NHS website is an absolute joy to use. From the legibility of the type to the navigation, also the style of writing is generally top notch IMHO.

Regarding the design, I remember when Google products gave me a similar feeling. Sadly, with "Material Design" usability has sunk to some weird place where I continually ask "where do i click? what CAN i click? stop sliding things around!" in frustration.

Apologies for going off topic (and the mini rant).

Worth pointing out that a lot of the good work NHS Digital do is inspired[1] by approach that the Government Digital Service did on other public service sites[2]. Over the last 5-10 years, basically every UK government website I've had to click on has slowly become sane and usable because of the GDS's work.

1: https://digital.nhs.uk/blog/transformation-blog/2018/definin...

2: https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/service-standard

GDS are really very good.

The UK has a lot of political problems. But we also have some seriously talented people doing absolutely outstanding work.

I agree - I'm writing code to submit VAT returns online and am impressed by the clear documentation and REST API provided by HMRC: https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs...

Other governments all over the world should really copy that...

Absolutely. I can tell apart my country's official government sites from scams because the legit one will give warnings about it being potentially dangerous... Certificates that won't work, services that can only be used during business hours, and similar dumbfounding behaviour is all over the place.

I really enjoy the write-ups that the NHS does for these news analysis pieces. Informative, well pitched voice - in my opinion. Trustworthy

I agree. The A-Z of health conditions is also excellent:


Whenever the news reports findings of a new study, they should format it this way..

There's been a long standing idea that dementia and Alzheimer can be prevented by mental exercise. It intuitively seems like a good hypothesis, but as this an other studies in the comments show, it's not true.

It is difficult to really test for this though, because you can't control for people's amount of mental exertion, gaming, learning and puzzle solving over their entire lives, so we substitute things like "knows more than one language fluently," something we can objectively measure and see if there's a correlation. This particular study used a group of people that took the same intelligence test when they were young.

There's been some research that shows some older people's brains have trouble metabolizing glucose and other sugars, and that diets that push ketosis in older people (higher fats, coconut oil, less cereal/crabs) can help some people:


Another activity that I have heard as slowing down mental decline is dancing:


Regardless of this dubious study, I will continue to solve crosswords. Cryptic crossword solvers were prized in Bletchley Park, since it was seen as evidence of lateral thinking. [1] I used to look down upon quick crosswords since they were too direct, but lately I have tried to time myself solving quick crosswords, and I find that they can be challenging as well when tried in a genuine quick mode - they involve jogging the memory at a very fast rate.

[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/11151478/C...

They ought to have a study on whether playing fast paced video game shows down mental decline.

Not related to memory, but I have had trouble with balance issues for years, and I'm only 38 years old. Now I got a Xbox One X recently, which means, of course, increased gaming. I'm not 100% yet but it does seem to have almost wiped my balance issues. I was always feeling nauseous and tired when, for example, moving my head too quickly sideways, or simply driving a car.

Its not outside the realm of possibility, my hypothesis is that I am very visually dependent when it comes to my sense of balance. Lots of fast-moving visual stimuli without any input to my balance organ probably tunes my brain to not use my eyes as much. There is also something called "Roll adaptation" which is rolling the head under visual stimuli that does not match. Maybe I should roll my head when gaming for even better effect...

Or speeds it up

I really liked the shared article.

In contast to what other news sources publish, this article links the original paper, reviews the metodology, gives some introductory explanations on the subject and provides all sorts of 'further reading' resources.

Really enjoyed it, thanks for sharing!

Seems to me that even if it didn't slow down the "rate" of mental decline, starting from a higher point because of "brain training" for want of a better term would still be good, no?

Yes, but you don't really get to pick your starting point - in the study, cognitive function at age 11 predicted crossword puzzle use and eventual cognitive decline. So if you're fortunate enough to be sharp at age 11 (thanks to your genes, your parents, and your environment), then you're in great shape. But that's not a solution that can be applied to all of us.

That makes the assumption that any kind of brain training raises the bar in a way that mental decline then diminishes. Overall mental degeneration could be a parallel process to cognitive ability that 'blocks' its application. Until all vectors are tested and analysed any assumption is as right or wrong as any other.

The whole of the NHS 'Behind the Headlines' blog is fantastic btw; taking newspaper stories, looking at the studies behind them and sifting out the truth from the sensationalism.

Lots of highbrow denial:D /sarcasm

... but Lumosity!

This is a test

i wish they 'd suggest "programming" instead of puzzle solving. i mean, it's a form of puzzle solving, but it s also useful in real life.

"Doesn't slow down mental decline"... They're not suggesting anything. They are summarizing the conclusion of the study which determined that intellectual engagement may not offset age related cognitive decline.

> But the study does seem to show that life-long intellectual engagement and problem-solving is linked to higher mental functioning, so it's not the case that giving your brain a workout is a waste of time, especially if you find those activities enjoyable and fulfilling.

i did read it

> Did you even read the article?

Please edit such swipes or nasty tropes out of your comments here. This is in the site guidelines: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html. We're trying for a bit better than internet median in HN discussions.

Done. I wouldn't go as far as calling it a "swipe or nasty trope". The guideline just says to avoid this type of insinuations.

Thanks for the edit. It helps.

Programming is only the cure to all problems in "our world"

What are some suggestions for good books or sites for puzzles ?

Chess seems to show the opposite. In particular speak with literally just about any older grandmaster and you'll invariably find their mental faculties are still in great shape. Of course there's always a correlation != causation problem that plagues all sort of social studies. This observation does not necessarily mean that becoming a grandmaster would slow mental decline. It could simply be something within the individuals that drives them to become grandmasters that itself is what staves off the decline.

Ultimately I'm not entirely sure what the point of science along these lines even is. The big risk is you notice a correlation to something and assume causation. You then start working to try to pursue that end in cases where the correlation is good - or avoid that end in cases where the correlation is bad. And you spend immense energy and resources doing this, only to find that in the end there was no actual causation at all and you just spent immense amounts of time, energy, and resources doing nothing.

Even worse is that sometimes you might pursue the correlation and falsely end up at the desired end thus assuming causality when none exists. Maybe the best example of this is human/animal sacrifice of ancient civilizations. Those sacrifices were not baseless from their perspective. What undoubtedly happened is that at one point a civilization has e.g. a bad harvest. They feel they must have wronged the gods, so they end up sacrificing something. And, completely by coincidence, the next harvest is bountiful. Lo and behold, you now have centuries of human and animal sacrifice in a model where you can ignore any negative outcomes by suggesting it simply means that you didn't sacrifice enough. Keep ramping up the sacrifices and indeed eventually you'll get a good harvest, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the sacrifices you've made.

> It could simply be something within the individuals that drives them to become grandmasters that itself is what staves off the decline.

Or it could just be survival bias. If your mental faculties are in decline, then you would be disinclined to continue competing in chess. I can imagine people would stop competing at that level long before they completely lost their marbles.

People generally reach grandmaster when they're very young and I'm not restricting my statement to only those that continue to play in international tournaments. One may retire from high level competitive chess, but people rarely give up the game altogether.

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