Brain games are fun, but don't expect any cures, says expert

word game
Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Wordle, the wildly popular five-word guessing game, has been called "genius" and "the pandemic game we didn't know we needed," but don't count on it to improve your brain power a UO psychology professor says.

So-called "" are mostly hype, said Ulrich Mayr, who researches aging and cognition as the UO's the Robert and Beverly Lewis Professor in Neuroscience. Rather than making you smarter, stopping aging or warding off dementia, people simply get better at playing the games.

"I'm sure it uses your , but using your brain power doesn't give you more brain power. It doesn't work like that," Mayr said. "You shouldn't assume that playing games will make you brighter or stop brain aging or ward off Alzheimer's."

A statement issued in 2014 by a panel of the world's leading neuroscientists and psychologists, including Mayr, said playing games like Sodoku or doing crossword puzzles are not proven to help brain health. In fact, a , regular exercise and are better for staying mentally sharp than time spent on brain games.

In general, whether it's coffee with a friend or engaging in an , Mayr said anything that puts people in a good mood has a positive effect.

"A positive mood makes people broader in their thinking, makes them more action-oriented," he said. "It shuts out ruminations that might be going on otherwise, so yes, it's good, unless it keeps you from doing even better things."

Wordle is the brainchild of Josh Wardle, a UO alumnus and in Brooklyn who created the to entertain he and his wife during the pandemic. Once per day, players have six chances to guess the mystery five-letter word.

A game that started with just 90 players in November has grown to millions of daily players as well as spawned a slew of clones, including Jewdle, a distinctly Jewish version of the popular game, Bickle for cycling fans or Nerdle for math people, to name a few. The New York Times recently announced it had purchased the game.

Although it won't keep you from getting dementia, Mayr, who admits to playing Wordle himself, concedes that without question the game is fun and addictive.

"Oh yeah, it's great. It's fun and doing fun things that keep your mind occupied is a good thing," he said. "But when you engage in any activity you need to also think about the opportunity cost, for example, if you're sitting around all day and watching TV, then playing Wordle is probably a better use of your time."

Citation: Brain games are fun, but don't expect any cures, says expert (2022, February 16) retrieved 14 July 2024 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Explore further

What is Wordle? How to play the game that's taking over your social media timeline


Feedback to editors