Jigsaw puzzles engage the brain to retain information on shapes and colors in order to choose pieces that will fit together properly. This hunt for pieces requires your brain to memorize what each piece looks like or should look like and what kinds of pieces you are searching for in order to complete the picture. Doing this repeatedly reinforces short-term memory.
Jigsaw puzzles also promote a true synergy between the left and right brain. The logical left brain looks at parts. It is sequential, rational, analytical and objective. The left brain is stimulated by problem solving. The creative right brain sees the big picture. It wants randomness, is intuitive and subjective, and even likes the unfamiliar. Jigsaw puzzles offer the best of both worlds.
In solving jigsaw puzzles, the brain is being worked in both hemispheres, thus making connections between the sides as well as between brain cells. The connections enhance the ability to learn, understand and remember. Furthermore, each success with the puzzle – placement of the pieces as well as completing the puzzle – encourages the production of dopamine, an important neurotransmitter in the brain that regulates mood and affects people’s concentration and motivation. Dopamine plays a large part in the pleasure/reward pathway (addiction and thrills), memory and motor control.
How Do You Choose Jigsaw Puzzles?
When selecting jigsaw puzzles for seniors, consider the following:
- No children’s activities – if you think the puzzle feels childish, don’t go with it.
- The degree of your loved one’s condition – are large pieces best or will the standard, large-count puzzles do the trick?
- What’s familiar – landmarks and favorite pastimes make great subjects. You can also make your own puzzles featuring family photos or other objects cherished by your loved one.
Working on the jigsaw puzzle with your loved one is a great way to not only boost their mental activity, but to create even more memories you both can enjoy.
( Monica Y. Dennis is the President and Creative Director of Village Works Enterprises, LLC, the makers of custom and photo jigsaw puzzles for all memorable occasions. Learn more about making a puzzle of your own at www.vwepuzzles.com.)