Crosswords are ‘better than sex’ due to a flood of dopamine released

Crosswords are ‘better than sex’ due to a flood of dopamine that is released when a puzzle is finished

  • Moment we find answer a flood of dopamine is released by body at that point
  • That’s the ‘reward’ chemical that makes sex, eating or winning money enjoyable
  • Researchers looked into brain to see areas active during problem-solving

Even the biggest crossword fanatic would find it hard to argue that solving puzzles is better than sex.

But scientists have said just that – after finding out that the ‘aha!’ moment when we work out an answer has the same effect on our brains.

A flood of dopamine is released at that point – the ‘reward’ chemical that makes sex, eating or winning money enjoyable.

When a crossword puzzle is solved, the brain releases dopamine, a chemical that makes sex, winning or eating enjoyable 

A team at Goldsmiths, University of London, used MRI brain scans to study what happens when we solve a clue. This feeling is defined as the moment of transition from being completely dark about the solution to suddenly ‘seeing it’.

Study co-author Professor Joydeep Bhattacharya said: ‘Dopamine is the brain reward you might get from having sex or winning the lottery.

‘We also saw it being released in the brain during someone’s ‘aha!’ moment where they solved a puzzle, which brings a feeling of relief, ease, joy and confidence.’ 

He even argued: ‘If anything, solving a puzzle may be even better than sex or money, because it has further implications for memory and people are learning from the experience.’

The study, led by the Medical University of Vienna and published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, scanned the brains of 29 volunteers as they solved 48 puzzles. 

They were given three words, such as stick, reading and service, and asked to find a linking word – in this case, lip.

Researchers were able to study brain activity and study which areas were active during creative problem solving

Professor Bhattacharya added: ‘By using the state-of-the-art functional magnetic resonance imaging we were able to peer deep into the brain and study in detail which areas are active during creative problem-solving. 

‘For the first time we have shown that the hub of the brain’s reward system, the nucleus accumbens, ‘lit up’ with increased activation both when problems were solved and when people reported a strong ‘aha!’ experience.’

Dr Martin Tik, of the MVU, said: ‘This area of the brain is closely associated with a flash of insight or moment of sudden enlightenment and can explain the ecstatic joy that goes with solving a creative problem.’


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