There are a variety of products out there that claim to improve your cognitive functions through brain training — often in the form of games. The game of Sudoku is particularly popular among people who think it is important to keep their brain active. This article from Randi.org asks whether such brain training activities actually lead to generalized cognitive gains.
If you practice Sudoku, does your memory and concentration get better, or do you just get better at Sudoku?
The research is mixed, but the overall pattern of research is converging on a particular nuanced answer. It seems that practicing a particular task improves your performance mostly on that task, and to a lesser extent on closely related tasks, but not beyond that to more general intellectual function.
There does seem to be a particular advantage to doing novel things – don’t get stuck in a rut, do a variety of things and add some new experiences and challenges to your life.
But don’t buy into neurosciencey hype about “brain training” and scientifically designed games that are allegedly going to be better for your brain than other similar games. There is no cheat, there is no short cut to becoming smarter or better. The more you work, the more you benefit.