Does problem-solving really protect against cognitive decline in old age?

Roger Staff, Lawrence Whalley, Michael J Hogan

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


“Use it or lose it” is the received wisdom when it comes to cognitive ability. But is there any truth in this old saw? Our latest study suggests that it depends how much “it” you have to start with.

Previous observational studies that looked at the effect of doing mentally stimulating activities, such as puzzles, on cognitive ability have largely supported the “use it or lose it” hypothesis. However, these studies have often been based on snapshots in time – so-called cross-sectional studies. To find out if there really is a link between mental engagement over a lifetime and cognitive ability in old age, you need to track people’s habits and mental abilities over a lifetime.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationThe Conversation
PublisherThe Conversation UK
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

Michael Hogan receives funding from the Health Research Board (Ireland), and Horizon 2020 (EU Funding) for a variety of basic and applied research and project work.

Lawrence Whalley and Roger Staff do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


  • Psychology
  • Dementia
  • Puzzles
  • Cognitive decline


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